Braves: No reason to hold back Austin Riley now

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Rob Manfred has been a busy man in 2020 and now faces the most substantial hurdle of all: finding the best way to go about resuming the MLB season. We have already learned that teams will have 29 players on rosters when play continues, suggesting that the first month or two will consist of a handful of doubleheaders. My guess is the norm — at least early in the season — will be doubleheaders, with the second game lasting just seven innings, as Major League Baseball does everything in their power to try and play 100 regular-season games. Neutral sites will likely be used, fans will not be allowed in stadiums at first, and the playoffs will be pushed back. It will not be easy to swing, but the league is going to make their best attempt.

What will be easier, though, are the roster decisions for Atlanta. They have three extra spots for players who otherwise would not have been on the Opening Day roster and will have one of their prized free-agent acquisitions, Cole Hamels, available (We think). A couple of these will likely go to a starter and a reliever, perhaps two starters. Between having seven MLB caliber starting arms in the organization and one of the deepest bullpens in the game, the Braves are built for a stretch like this. However, this pandemic has resolved the most excruciating decision Brian Snitker had to make coming into the season.

The Braves had quite the third base competition brewing between Johan Camargo and Austin Riley, with Camargo being the favorite solely due to his experience. The plan was one would be the team’s starting third baseman, and the other would head to AAA to receive everyday playing time. Now, the organization is in a position that allows both players at-bats at the major-league level.

It is understandable where the Braves were initially coming from with this decision. Riley is one of the top young players in the game, possessing sky-high upside, and they do not want to waste precious development time with him sitting on the bench. Camargo was supposed to be used in a super-utility role last season but did not respond well to limited at-bats. The moment that he did receive them, however, he briefly caught fire before being injured.

But with double-headers and minimal off days, the Braves are going to need both of them. It is going to be a gruesome stretch where players will need rest. The two can relieve each other, but the beauty is that both players are so versatile that they can spot start elsewhere as well. Camargo can play anywhere in the infield and even has some experience in the outfield. Riley played the outfield last season and can also play each of the corner infield spots.

There is no reason the Braves should not unleash both of these men to start the season, and the chances are that the third base battle is far from over. It will be quite the development to watch unfold for Atlanta, and a fantastic problem to have.

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