He’s doesn’t yet rank with the elites at the position, but Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley is having a year that should earn him All-Star considerations.
It seems that we were wrong.
This is a player who was marked as having a “slow bat” in the minor leagues… and worked like crazy to overcome that and develop his slugging.
At every successive minor league level, there was an adjustment period… one that took time for him to become acclimated to. And he did.
So why did we doubt Riley’s ability to conquer major league hitting as well?
Sure… it has taken some time, but it seems no one should doubt Riley’s resolve and work ethic to better himself… and I expect we won’t bet against him again, either.
Braves 3B vs. the World
Let’s check the rankings:
National League WAR — third basemen:
- Nolan Arenado: 1st (Fangraphs), 1st (Baseball-reference)
- Austin Riley: 3rd (Fangraphs), 3rd (B-ref)
- Justin Turner: 2nd (Fangraphs), 5th (B-ref)
- Manny Machado: 4th (Fangraphs), 4th (B-ref)
- Ryan McMahon (Rockies): 5th (Fangraphs), 1st (B-ref)
>> Note that those figures include defensive contribution estimates; we’ll get to that later.
NL 3B Homers:
- McMahon (tie 1st)
- Eduardo Escobar (tie 1st)
- Eugenio Suarez (3rd)
- Riley (tie 4th) with Turner, Arenado
NL 3B RBI:
- Arenado 44
- Escobar 43
- Machado, McMahon 38
- Turner 34
- Suarez 33
- Riley 30
Now we get into his wheelhouse stats…
- Riley – 1st (.299)
- Turner, Arenado – 18 points behind
- McMahon (.252)
- Starlin Castro (.243)
- Machado (.242)
NL Runs Created:
- Riley – 1st (144)
- Turner (142)
- Arenado (129)
- Machado (108)
- Escobar (101)
- McMahon (100)
- Riley – 1st (.384)
- Turner (.373)
- Arenado (.330)
- Machado (.327)
- McMahon (.302)
- Riley – 1st (.517)
- Arenado (.514)
- McMahon (.500)
- Turner (.491)
- Escobar (.457)
- Machado (.423)
…and thus, Riley is clearly leading in OPS as well.
The defensive metrics don’t like Riley that much right now, but if defensive errors were a disqualifier for All-Star votes, Fernando Tatis Jr. (15 errors, -4 Defensive Runs Saved)) would be having a much tougher time with votes than Riley (10, -1).
No, the problem Riley will have in gathering All-Star votes is not about his qualifications. It’s all about the “names” in front of him, including one that has no business being there in the first place:
All-Star Votes, Round 1, NL Third Base
- Kris Bryant (502,970)
- Nolan Arenado (239,189)
- Justin Turner (198,807)
- Manny Machado (188,836)
- Austin Riley (181,570)
Sure, Braves Country is trying to make a push, but it’s hard to get past the big names. But Bryant’s placement is more an egregious sin because of this:
- 2021 total Outfield innings: 318
- Right field innings: 136
- 2021 Third base innings: 127.2
Riley, on the other hand, has 515.2 innings at the position… while Bryant isn’t a qualified player for anything other than an outfield spot.
It’s going to be tough for Riley to get a nod above these top four… but by all rights, Riley should only be competing against 3 contenders at the most.
Given that… he’s actually winning the battle that counts the most — the one on the field. Austin Riley should be an All-Star.