For this week's installment of Talking Chop's Minor League Player of the Week, we had several strong candidates. Isranel Wilson, KD Kang, Todd Cunningham, Tyrell Jenkins, Greg Ross, Jose Peraza, and Stephen Gaylor all had excellent showings in the last week or so and all deserve recognition for their efforts. However, this week our minor league player of the week is Austin Riley of the GCL Braves. Drafted with the 41st pick in the 2015 draft, Austin one of those super athletic kids who could realistically be successful on the mound or in the field. In fact, many teams were evaluating him as a pitching prospect and not as a 3B prospect. However, the Braves liked what they saw with his bat and while fielding his position (like with all young players) was going to be a work in progress, they decided to go ahead and put him in the field and see what he could do.
So what has Austin done to deserve the POTW honors? Well, for starters in his past 6 games, he is 8 for 23 with 3 home runs (including a grand slam), 10 RBIs, and 5 runs scored. He has hit safely in all six of those games. He has struck out 5 times total in those 6 games which is somewhat encouraging given that he was striking out at a VERY high clip to start his pro career. That said, he now has 6 homers on the season which is one off the league lead in the category and he is among the league leaders in RBIs and total bases (as well as tied for the league lead in strikeouts). While hitting for a super high average will likely never be a part of Austin game, it is certainly heartening to see him succeeding down in rookie ball and bringing some much needed power to the organizational ranks. Once pitcher's learn to respect his power at the plate, he should be able to draw more walks and boost that OBP a bit and with his improvement at the plate, he should end his time in rookie league with a strong triple slash line. So congratulations Austin! Keep up the good work