We talked about it briefly on the podcast this week, but all of us are somewhat puzzled as to why the Braves have opted to keep their slugging rookie down in Gwinnett for this long.
Riley began his rehab assignment on August 23rd in Rome where he spent three games before being assigned to the Stripers. He picked up two hits in his first three games for Gwinnett. At that point, I’m thinking he’s good to go; however, with the rosters set to expand on September 1st, it makes sense for the Braves to keep him down for at least another couple of games.
Fast forward a week; it’s now September 5th, and there is still no sign of Austin Riley. He’s collected two doubles since and picked up his first home run yesterday – all while playing in the field. The man is ready, and the Braves aren’t going to learn anything about his potential role down the stretch with him in Gwinnett. We know he can dominate AAA pitching; we don’t know if he can bounce back from the slump he was mired in before the injury.
If the Braves plan on making a serious run at their first World Series title since 1995, then Riley is going to have to be a factor. Rafael Ortega and Matt Joyce have filled in splendidly, but they have no business starting games in the playoffs. This should be Austin Riley’s job to lose, and I would want him to have as much experience heading into the postseason as possible. The Braves clearly do not think that is necessary.
The Stripers will wrap up their playoff run in the coming days. By then, Atlanta will have no choice but to bring him up. Perhaps they do it sooner for a critical series this weekend against the Nationals. Either way, it won’t be much longer before he’s tearing up SunTrust again, and the Braves should still have enough time to evaluate his role come October.