Pete Alonso seems to have generated most of the early Rookie of the Year buzz in the National League so far. It is well deserved after he lit up spring training this year and is currently slashing .267/.340/.618 with 20 home runs (tied for second in NL), 45 RBI’s (9th in NL) and an OPS of .958. So yes, he is rightfully so the front runner for Rookie of the Year and maybe more. However, there is another rookie in the National League East taking the league by storm and might be pushing Alonso for that title for Rookie of the Year.
That man is Austin Riley. Ever heard of him? Better have because if you don’t you’re late to the party no one else is invited. After being drafted in the 1st round, 41st overall by the Atlanta Braves in 2015, Riley has done nothing but hit. Last year, Riley started in Double-A, tore it up and later was promoted to Triple-A by the end of the year ensuring himself a call up at some point this year. Which has happened and if I were to say I wasn’t expecting this, I would be lying.
Riley already has accumulated a slash line of .324/.368/.732– 1.101 OPS, nine home runs, 25 RBI’s, 15 runs and has taken it upon himself to become more versatile as he has entrenched himself in left field, normally a third baseman, for the time being with Ender Inciarte on the IL at the moment. He has made a few errors, three to be exact, but if there is one knock on him, it is his fielding in the outfield might be a little sketch as he gets himself acclimated to the outfield for the time being. If anyone can remember, there also was a guy that was a third baseman by trade and switched to left field because he willingness to help the team and be one of the best teammates ever. $1 to the winner whoever guesses that correctly.
The guy can just straight up mash. Last night in the top of the 7th inning, with the Braves down by two and one out, Austin Riley stepped up to the plate looking poised as ever. Riley took a 0-1 outside DIRTY slider and went with the pitch and deposited it into the right field seats the open the flood gates for good and give the Braves a 6-5 lead. When seeing a 22 year old drive that pitch out, most likely against a reliever he never has faced before and on top of that, righties were hitting .139/.256/.139 against him, it’s tough not to pop a little woody. Kyle Crick was having a year and Riley did what baseball players work on daily to try and master and Riley did it in a clutch moment with his team down. This guy has power to ALL fields and has given Brave fans something to get excited about.
Through 18 games Riley has nine home runs. I don’t expect this to last as the most home runs he has hit in a year has been 20 in back to back years but he is legit. Who knows, some players are better with better competition and maybe he could go off. Either way, with Riley up, he has made Johan Camargo expandable and maybe has bought Atlanta a nice reliever or starter by the end of the trade deadline. What I am sure of is if you haven’t taken notice of Austin Riley, now is the time.