The Atlanta Braves have been mired in mediocrity thus far in 2019. At 21-21 after winning two games following Tuesday night’s debacle against the Cardinals, they were a team searching for a spark. According to Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that spark may have arrived Wednesday as the Braves promoted Austin Riley.
Braves Promote Austin Riley
Ender Inciarte left Tuesday’s game with back tightness. While the severity of the injury is not yet known, he was immediately rumored to be headed to the injured list. Given his struggles both at the plate and in the field this season, it is not a surprising decision. Either the Braves honestly believe his injury needs a while to heal, or they have decided to give him time to rest and reset. The reality is that the motives do not matter. Ender was struggling, the Braves are struggling, and Austin Riley was doing his best to force their hand.
Since the beginning of May, Austin Riley has gone supernova for the Gwinnett Stripers. For the month he has slashed a mythical .360/.458/1.020 with 10 home runs, 23 RBI and a 9/9 strikeout to walk ratio. Yes, that final number is his slugging percentage, not his OPS which is now at 1.478 for the month.
On the year, Riley is hitting .299/.377/.681 for an OPS over 1.000 with 15 home runs and 39 driven in. Regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball entering the season, his start cannot be ignored. With Inciarte slashing a meager .218/.295/.323 on the year and his defense taking a step back, his injury comes at a perfect time for both him and the Braves.
What This Means
Just last week it was announced that the Braves were going to give Riley more time in the outfield. Inciarte badly needs a reset and the Braves badly need production. Inciarte’s injury allows the Braves to give Riley a run of everyday at-bats at the major league level. While Johan Camargo could step in and probably do an admirable job in left, his bat does not possess the promise that Austin Riley’s does. Furthermore, Camargo’s ability to play the middle infield as well is invaluable.
At present, it seems the Braves will use Riley as their everyday left-fielder. An outfield of Riley in left, Ronald Acuna Jr.in center, and Nick Markakis in right has a lot of offensive potential. If Riley can stay hot, this could be exactly the spark the Braves’ offense needs. Maybe if the offense gets going it will take some pressure off the beleaguered pitching staff too.
In the past two games, Riley has gone 4-for-7 and also added a home run. Depending how long Inciarte is out, Riley could be a huge addition to the Braves sub-500 start to the season.
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