Inbox: Will Braves call up prospect Riley in '18?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers fans' questions

May 7th, 2018

Do you think Austin Riley will be called up to the Majors this year?

-- @Cossart13

Now that Riley has been promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett, he stands just one step away from beginning his potential reign as the Braves' third baseman of the future. The 21-year-old slugger earned the promotion after hitting .333 with six home runs and a 1.071 OPS in 109 plate appearances with Double-A Mississippi.

Riley's production has been impressive, but his strikeout rate (28.3 percent) is nearly identical to the one he produced in last season's final two months at the Double-A level. The club will be closely monitoring his contact rate while determining whether it would be wise to bring him to Atlanta at some point this season.

will influence how quickly Riley, the Braves' No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline, might rise. But I don't think Bautista will serve as a deterrent if Riley provides clear indication he is ready at some point this year.

:: Submit a question to the Braves Inbox ::

The Braves were pleased with what they saw from Bautista defensively this past weekend, and time will tell what he can still offer from an offensive perspective. If the 37-year-old veteran is productive and Atlanta remains in postseason contention throughout the summer, there's certainly reason to think Riley might not reach the Majors until September, much like Freddie Freeman in 2010.

During last year's Spring Training, Chipper Jones said Riley has the potential to spend many seasons batting directly behind Freeman in the middle of Atlanta's order. It's too early to project when the young third baseman will arrive. But this year's early results have at least provided reason to think third base might not be a priority when the Braves begin shopping during their offseason.

The Braves also have the option to utilize as their regular third baseman if there is a need for a change at some point this summer. But the club would like to keep Camargo in a super utility role.

Who do you think the Braves will prioritize in the offseason? I am thinking is No. 1, with possibly Manny Machado as No. 2.

-- @LandsDemise

Look, I regard Machado as one of the game's top five talents. But with Riley rising and Atlanta's future needs becoming a little clearer, I'd say the bullpen will be a top priority. Kimbrel would be an obvious target for many reasons. But it won't be cheap to reacquire a guy who could become one of the top two or three closers in baseball history.

Even if Kimbrel were willing to provide some kind of hometown discount, I can't see the Braves getting him for less than $17 million a year over at least five seasons. With the club's current structure, that salary would account for approximately 13 percent of the payroll. Would it be wise to make this commitment to someone who would pitch around 60 innings per season?

Given that the Braves will spend the next few years with several young players who will not have hefty salaries, it might be the right time to make that commitment. Kimbrel is a few weeks shy of his 30th birthday, and he has not yet shown any overly concerning signs of regression. With that being said, his velo and strikeout percentage are slightly down this year, dropping from the ridiculous to the still-pretty-darn-good level.

We'll see how the remainder of this season goes for the Braves and Kimbrel. But for now, I'd say there's a strong possibility we'll be discussing this potential reunion again during the offseason.

Is here to stay?

-- @sonnyp1986

Though Soroka's debut was essentially an emergency start, the Braves brought the 20-year-old phenom up with the hope and expectation he will remain a fixture in Atlanta's rotation.

Soroka certainly hasn't done anything to alter the plan. The young righty, Atlanta's No. 3 prospect, was fantastic during his debut against the Mets last week, and he showed his maturity as he battled through four innings against a veteran Giants lineup that beat him with well-placed soft contact on Sunday. He'll make his next start against the Marlins on Saturday, and you can pencil him in to start every five games the Braves play over the next few years.

Will we look back on the 2015 MLB Draft as one of the best in Braves history?

-- @gaffney_milehi

Yeah, the Braves certainly took advantage of having five of the first 75 selections in 2015, taking Kolby Allard (14th), Soroka (28th), Riley (41st), Lucas Herbert (54th) and (75th). Allard, Soroka and Riley all rank among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects, and Minter has already made a strong impression at the Major League level. Herbert, who was Allard's high school catcher, was seemingly a package deal.

The 2015 Draft might end up being one of the most valuable for the Braves. Soroka, Allard, Minter and Riley all have potential to become stars at the big league level. But before calling it the best Draft in club history, let's wait to get a better feel for its depth, which will be realized once right-handed pitchers Patrick Weigel, Josh Graham and Evan Phillips continue to develop.

I didn't sleep very well this weekend. Do you think it's Bautista's fault? Did he mess up my chemistry?

-- @joshgainer

Thank you for the reminder. I almost forgot to mention that if any of you think last week's Inbox was better than this one, don't blame me, #BlameBautista.