The gift that keeps on giving. Chipper Jones spent his entire career as an Atlanta Brave, becoming one of the greatest third basemen ever to play the game. However, his contributions have not stopped there. He’s still an active member of the organization, helping coach the younger guys when needed. None more so than current third baseman Austin Riley, who has blossomed into a perennial MVP candidate, primarily because of his adjustments at the plate, where he has become a superstar.
Austin Riley has always looked the part of a major-league slugger. He features incredible power and a fantastic swing, which is what led to him being the top-ranked prospect in the Braves system… back when the Braves used to have one of the top farm systems of any team. However, like a lot of prospects find when they reach the majors, it is an entirely different ball game at the top level.
Riley burst onto the scene as a rookie like few have ever done. Through his first 14 major-league games, he smacked seven homers to go along with a .375 batting average, but it came to a swift halt. Over his next 66 games, he hit just .188 with 11 home runs. It was such a poor stretch that he ended up being left off the playoff roster.
The shortened 2020 season was an improvement, but not by much. It wasn’t until 2021 that Riley began to reach his full potential, finishing 6th in the NL MVP race. In an interview with Trey Sikes, owner of CamWoodBats, Chipper Jones recently talked about what changed for the man who has since signed the most lucrative contract in Braves franchise history.
Chipper Jones made this simple adjustment to unlock Austin Riley as a hitter… pic.twitter.com/sadeBXbDTB
— CamWood Bats (@CamWoodBats) January 31, 2023
Most people around the organization felt Riley had star potential since the day he was drafted, which is why he was taken in the first round. He’s a towering human that has looked like he could blast 40 homers since he was in high school. However, nobody ever saw Riley becoming a .300 hitter, something he accomplished during the 2021 campaign.
Offensively, Riley is already one of the best players in the game, and there’s part of me that believes he’s still scratching the surface. The last third baseman to win NL MVP for the Braves was Chipper Jones, and at some point over what will be a lengthy career in Atlanta, I expect Austin Riley to do the same.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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