If you had told me Austin Riley would have an OPS well over .800 with a .361 OBP in the middle of July, I would have expected the Braves to have one of the best offenses in baseball at this point in the season. Riley has arguably been the Braves’ most unreliable offensive piece over the last couple of seasons, and despite that, Atlanta’s offense has consistently been near the top of every statistical category. Unfortunately, because of injuries and other misfortune, things just haven’t worked out around Riley, which is why the Braves are fighting an uphill battle to get back into the thick of the NL East race.
Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for Brian Snitker‘s group this season, and it may lead to the Braves being sellers at this year’s trade deadline. But if there is a silver lining, it’s that the core of this team moving forward still looks as strong as ever, thanks in large part to Riley figuring it out.
On April 17th, Riley was hitting well below the Mendoza Line (.182) and did not have a single home run. It almost looked as if he might need another AAA stint to regain some confidence, and it was certainly fair to question whether he was ever going to turn into the third baseman of the future that the Braves expected. However, he’s flipped a switch since that day. Over the last three months (76 games), Riley is hitting nearly .300 (.295) with all 15 of his home runs, leading to an .895 OPS.
Now, we’ve seen Riley get hot before, but never has he played this consistently good for such a long stretch. This feels sustainable. His walk rate has nearly doubled since 2019, and we’ve seen a significant dip in his strikeout rate as well. Riley has become a tough out, and I only expect his power to become more apparent with experience. This is a guy who has 40+ home run power, and with improved confidence, we could see plenty of years like that in the future. Let’s hope he can keep it going for the rest of the season, but with each passing week, it’s looking more and more like the Braves found another cornerstone piece to their organization.
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