Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Braves Team News

Which Riley will Braves get in 2020?

@mlbbowman
July 10, 2020

ATLANTA -- When Spring Training was shut down in March, the Braves were two weeks away from the start of the season and still determining whether it would be best to utilize Austin Riley or Johan Camargo as their primary third baseman. • Braves-Marlins exhibitions set for July 21-22 Fast

ATLANTA -- When Spring Training was shut down in March, the Braves were two weeks away from the start of the season and still determining whether it would be best to utilize Austin Riley or Johan Camargo as their primary third baseman.

Braves-Marlins exhibitions set for July 21-22

Fast forward four months and the Braves are still in the same position. Two weeks from Opening Day, they are still debating how best to fill the third-base position.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape with the two guys that we’ve got,” manager Brian Snitker said. "I don’t know how we’re going to start using them. I like the position both of those guys are in.”

Though the uncertainty might seem similar, the position the Braves are in is different than a few months ago. Without the presence of a Minor League season, there is no longer reason to debate whether Riley could benefit from added development.

So we know barring an injury or ailment, Riley and Camargo will both be on the Opening Day roster.

What we don’t know is whether the Braves will get the Riley who hit like Babe Ruth for six weeks last year or the one who hit like Mike Foltynewicz over the final three months of the season.

Regardless, Freddie Freeman’s status has enhanced the odds of Riley being in Atlanta’s Opening Day lineup.

Freeman has improved since testing positive for COVID-19 last week. But until he receives two negative tests conducted at least 24 hours apart, the Braves have to at least be prepared in the event their All-Star first baseman is not ready by the time the season starts on July 24.

As of now, Riley would be the top option to fill in for Freeman. But he might also be the best option at third base.

Camargo is the better defensive option at the hot corner. But if Riley is clicking, he has the potential to make a significant impact during a 60-game season.

Regardless of where they are positioned, an optimized Braves lineup would include both Freeman and the version of Riley who hit 14 homers with a .930 OPS through the first 174 plate appearances (42 games) of his career.

Concerns about Riley are focused on the fact he produced a .513 OPS while striking out in 42 percent of the 119 plate appearances he drew once July arrived.

But Riley created some encouragement when he constructed a 1.080 OPS and struck out in just five of 32 plate appearances before Spring Training was shut down in March. The 23-year-old slugger was laying off sliders out of the zone and still impressing with his powerful swing, which produced an estimated 450-foot homer against the Rays on March 3.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus shut Spring Training down nine days later. But Riley seemingly kept himself prepared. He hit a couple long drives while being reintroduced to live pitching during the scrimmages played on Wednesday and Thursday.

“He’s looked good in his batting practices,” Snitker said. “I loved where he was in Spring Training. I loved the takes as much as anything in the games during Spring Training. He’s had a couple of really nice takes here this week. These guys have faced some pretty good pitching here [during the scrimmages].”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.