As I said at the beginning of this series, I’m an optimist — to a degree, at least. The MLB lockout is coming to an end, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened as soon as this week, so I’m beginning to prep for the season by predicting the stats of the entire Braves roster. If you missed the opening piece to this series, click the link below.
It’s been well-documented that the Braves infield is full of iron men. Unless you’re injured — not hurt, injured — you’re playing, and Austin Riley exemplified that as well as anybody, starting in a league-leading 160 games at third base during his breakout season. Riley is one of the more fun players to predict because his 2022 campaign could end up on either end of the spectrum. There is the possibility, even if it is a small one, that he regresses back to the player he was in 2020 and is below replacement level. There’s also the chance that he builds off his breakout 2021 and wins the MVP award. Like most cases, the reality should lie somewhere in the middle.
However, remember when I said I was an optimist? Riley happens to be one of my favorite prospects that I’ve ever covered. He simply looks the part of a major-league slugger in all facets, and once he found some plate discipline last season, we saw him unlock his full potential. Regression may occur in some areas; I’m not sure that we will ever see him hit over .300 again. However, I do expect him to hit a few more homers than he did last season, and I also think he will continue to work more walks as his career progresses, leading to a higher OPS. Not to mention, Riley made considerable strides defensively at the hot corner during the second half of last season. 2021 was his breakout, but 2022 and beyond will be better.
159 G, .272/.360/.575, 43 home runs, 112 RBIs