Slow start to one of the Best 3rd Basemen in Baseball
Austin Riley’s emergence has been one of the best developments for the Atlanta Braves during the 2021 season. He has gone from a giant question mark to one of the top third baseman in Major League Baseball. Coming into the 2021 season it was still an open question who would take the reins at the hot corner. Riley had a solid spring earning him the Opening Day nod, but like the Braves offense, he got off to an incredibly slow start going 8-for-51 with no extra base hits over his first 15 games. He would finish the month on a tear recording 15 hits over his next 33 at-bats raising his line for the month to .299/.409/.442 with a 131 wRC+.
Riley slumped in June but made adjustments and got right back on track with a strong performance in July and August. He has been a big part of the Braves’ surge to the top of the standings hitting .356/.414/.671 with 13 home runs during the second half. Riley’s become a key piece of the lineup and has slotted in behind Freddie Freeman in the batting order. Entering play Saturday, he is hitting .302/.377/.534 with 27 homers and a 140 wRC+ which are numbers that I am not sure anyone saw coming.
The numbers at the dish for Riley will get the most attention and rightfully so, however his improvement at the hot corner is noteworthy he has saved the Braves at least three wins and several rallies for the pitching staff with his glove. He also had a remarkable 39 game errorless streak and as much action as a third baseman sees game the game this is awesome. His tireless work with Ron Washington has paid off. His range is somewhat limited, but he ranks second behind Nolan Arenado in defensive runs saved with 7.
The phrase that comes to mind for the Braves and Austin Riley is it takes courage to have patience! Not every player is Chipper Jones right away it takes time. Riley was given that time and he’s quickly become one of the Braves most reliable players and a huge reason we have a four and a half game lead in the in the NL East.