Braves turn to power-packed Riley at No. 41
Drafted as third baseman to add explosive bat to Minor League system
ATLANTA -- After the Braves took pitchers with their first two selections in the 2015 Draft, scouting director Brian Bridges crossed his fingers and began hoping that Austin Riley would still be available with his next pick.
Bridges' wish was granted, and he acted accordingly by selecting Riley with the 41st selection on Monday night. The 18-year-old athlete from DeSoto Central High School (Southaven, Miss.) was coveted as a pitcher by some clubs, but the Braves drafted him as a third baseman because they liked the power potential his 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame provides.
"I'd seen him in the summer a lot," Bridges said. "You'd see him hit balls and you say, 'Man.' Then you'd see him on the mound and you're like, 'Well.'"
After Braves special assistant to the general manager Roy Clark watched Riley in a recent tournament played in LaGrange (Ga.), the decision was made that he profiled better as a hitter. The Phillies, D-backs and Brewers were among the other teams who were targeting him for his offensive potential, despite the fact that his fastball has been clocked at 95 mph.
The Braves took high school pitchers -- left-hander Kolby Allard and right-hander Mike Soroka -- with their two first-round selections on Monday. They then grabbed Riley with the hope that he will help them satisfy their need to add legitimate power to their farm system.
According to MaxPreps, Riley batted .423 with 11 homers and 14 doubles in 37 games for DeSoto this year. The Mississippi State commit played shortstop throughout his high school career. Thus, the Braves believe his hands will prove beneficial as he makes the transition to third base.
"He's got real soft hands," Bridges said. "We'll just take our time with him. It was a chance to get a power bat."
The Braves received the 41st overall selection in the Craig Kimbrel trade they completed with the Padres in April.
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m. ET.