Atlanta Braves 3B Austin Riley is the NL Player of the Week

Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley (27) runs to first after a double against the New York Mets. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley (27) runs to first after a double against the New York Mets. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

What a week it was!  The Atlanta Braves third baseman has finally seen a lot of his hard work show up on the stat line after a rough start.

Earlier in the season, Atlanta Braves OF Ronald Acuna won honors as the NL Player of the Week after being denied that recognition the week before — despite better numbers — thanks to a timely no-hitter out West.

Not so for Austin Riley this week:  his torrid hitting was rewarded with that distinction in an announcement made this afternoon:

Let’s just bask in the glow of these numbers for a bit:

  • Currently on an 8-game hitting streak (and hits in 13 of 15 games)
  • 5/17:  1 for 3 vs. Mets (homer)
  • 5/18:  1 for 4 vs. Mets (homer)
  • 5/19:  2 for 4 vs. Mets (both doubles)
  • 5/20:  1 for 4 vs. Pirates (scored)
  • 5/21:  3 for 4 vs. Pirates (2 homers, sac fly, 3 RBI)
  • 5/22:  2 for 4 vs. Pirates (double)
  • 5/23:  2 for 4 vs. Pirates (both homers; 5 RBI)

Adding that up, he has a .462 average, .464 On-base percentage, 1.308 slugging average, and 1.772 OPS… for a crazy Runs Created number of 352.

All that despite 11 strikeouts… have a week kid.

Atlanta Braves get a second POTW Award this year.

Dave O’Brien quoted Chipper Jones on his expectations for Riley — just before this outburst began:

"“I think he’s capable of a .280 average and a near-.400 OBP. And as he gets more comfortable with the new approach, some of those singles and doubles in the gap will start carrying over the fence.”"

Riley has had to work on this — no doubt.  There were some streaky stretches in which he looked like a deer caught in the headlights.  Slowly, surely, his plate approaches have improved, he’s worked counts, he’s protected the plate, and his pitch recognition has taken a dramatic up-turn.

It became apparent that his swing approach has changed as well:  as that spray chart shows, he’s not a dead-pull hitter.

In fact, it’s clear from simple observation that Riley is working the ball to the opposite field as a priority… which makes perfect sense since pitchers seem to be inclined to try and get him out on the outside part of the plate.

That’s not happening as much lately.

Now granted:  11K in 28 plate appearances is a lot… but at the same time, his contact has been improving significantly:

  • Hard hit%:  up to the 76th percentile
  • Max exit velocity:  86th
  • Barrel%:  77th

Maybe the scary part here is that there’s still room for improvement:  chase rates, whiff rates, strikeout rates… all of these could continue to improve.

If that happens — and this kid’s work ethic clearly shows that he’s capable of almost anything — then the Atlanta Braves could have a true beast on their hands.

Podcast: Registering complaints. dark. Next

And maybe a true cleanup hitter as well.