Matt Olson: Austin Riley is one of the most underrated players in baseball

Braves Austin Riley

Austin Riley has blossomed into one of the deadliest hitters in all of baseball, and the Braves handed him the most lucrative contract in franchise history because of it. On Barstool’s Starting 9 podcast,¬†Matt Olson went as far as to call the burly third baseman one of the most underrated players in baseball.

The Braves first baseman spoke with Jake Arrieta and Barstool Carl about why Riley got a bigger deal than the field, and Olson answered it beautifully. He explained the difference between Olson and Riley’s respective deals compared to Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Spencer Strider, and Michael Harris. The younger guys will receive a second contract, which is important to consider.

Matt Olson got his point across and lightened the mood by explaining that Riley got the bag because he’s one of the most underrated players in baseball, telling the co-hosts that Riley is just a “big, strong Mississippi boy who can hit the shit out of it.” Yup that checks out. No player at his position has more home runs than Riley since 2021.

 

In 2021, Austin Riley had a slash line of .303/.367/.531 with 33 long balls and a 136 wRC+ in 662 plate appearances. It was the breakout campaign everyone had envisioned, but it was fair to beware of regression. Riley had been teetering on putting it all together but had struggled with consistency. Well, he put those worries to bed in 2022.

Last season, Riley had a slash line of .273/.349/.528 with 38 homers and a 142 wRC+ in 693 plate appearances. Despite the dip in the slash line, he turned in a better campaign in 2022 compared to the year before. Riley hit the ball harder and more often, really improving his ability to hit every pitch type in 2022.

Austin Riley is a lunch pail guy that everyone would love to have in their organization. His power is breathtaking, and his approach has only improved with experience. The Braves and their fans should be thrilled to have him be a centerpiece of this team for the next decade.

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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