LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Austin Riley made another good impression on Chipper Jones and made the most of his first experience in big league camp. But the Braves' highly touted third-base prospect will now begin preparing for a season that will provide better indication about when he might be
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Austin Riley made another good impression on Chipper Jones and made the most of his first experience in big league camp. But the Braves' highly touted third-base prospect will now begin preparing for a season that will provide better indication about when he might be ready to make his Major League debut.
Before Tuesday afternoon's game against the Blue Jays, the Braves announced Riley, catcher Alex Jackson and right-handed reliever Luke Jackson were reassigned to Minor League camp. The team now has 45 active players in big league camp.
MLBPipeline ranks Riley as the game's 97th-best prospect and the eighth-best prospect within the Braves' fruitful system. The 20-year-old third baseman has matured physically over the past year and lessened concerns about his capability to handle the hot corner from a defensive perspective.
Riley hit .315 with eight homers and a .900 OPS over the 48 games he played after being promoted to Double-A Mississippi last year. He tallied a pair of home runs, but also struck out 10 times while going 5-for-24 in 12 Grapefruit League games.
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Riley might begin this season with Mississippi, but there's certainly a possibility he could make the leap to Atlanta at some point in 2018. His progress will influence whether the Braves aggressively pursue Josh Donaldson or Manny Machado in next winter's free-agent market.
"When Chipper was [in camp], he said [Riley's] defense has improved so much," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "Once you get the feel of things and understand how they're going to pitch to you, you can start making adjustments hitting. But if you can catch the ball and throw the ball and start hitting, everything falls into place and they'll find a spot for you."
Alex Jackson also made a strong impression as he lessened concerns about the transition he made from outfielder to catcher last year. The Mariners' former first-round pick also displayed his tremendous power potential during batting practice. But he went just 4-for-18 with nine strikeouts during Grapefruit League action, showing why some scouts have some concerns about his offensive potential at the big league level.
Luke Jackson spent some time in Atlanta's bullpen last year, but was removed from the 40-man roster this past offseason. The right-hander allowed five runs (four earned) over 3 1/3 innings this spring.
Kaz's first rough outing
Scott Kazmir remains the top internal candidate to win the final spot in Atlanta's rotation after retiring just 10 of the 18 batters he faced in Tuesday's 13-6 loss to the Blue Jays. The veteran southpaw produced his normal fastball velocity (88-89 mph) and felt healthy.
But as he allowed four runs (three earned) over 3 2/3 innings, he might have been fighting off some of the rust that developed as he missed all of last year with a hip injury.
"He's trying to get back in the swing of things," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He went through the innings the way we wanted him to. If he feels good, then that's a positive."
Kazmir will have a chance to make at least three more starts before he would be needed to pitch in the regular season. He stands as top candidate to take the rotation spot opened when Luiz Gohara sprained his left ankle last week. But the Braves will continue evaluating other options, including Max Fried.
"I know what I need to do," Kazmir said. "It's just a matter of me going out there and executing."
Johan Camargo exited Tuesday's game with a stiff back. The third baseman will likely rest on Wednesday, but the team does not seem to think he'll miss more than a game or two.
"We're getting to that time in Spring Training when we're playing a lot and we've been down there a long time," Snitker said. "It's just that time when guys start to feel it."
Up next: Julio Teheran will look to remain sharp when the Braves host the Phillies on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET on Gameday Audio. The veteran right-hander is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP over nine innings in three starts this spring.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.