Austin Riley has been an absolute treat to follow along with these past few years. From him busting on to the scene hitting a bunch of home runs in rookie ball to him carrying the Rome offense in the second half to a title to his jump all the way to Triple-A, Austin has long been one of the players that has garnered the most intrigue from fans following the minors.
This offseason has seen him start to get a lot of recognition nationally. Baseball America named him the top prospect in the Braves’ farm system which definitely drew some curious glances, but highlighted just how far he has come from a strikeout prone slugger who may not be able to stick at third in the low minors to one of the premier power bats in the minor leagues who has made big strides defensively.
Now, it looks like MLB Pipeline has also jumped on the Austin Riley bandwagon.
These are the nominees for top 3B prospect in #MLB:— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) January 22, 2019
Guerrero Jr., #BlueJays
And the winner is ... https://t.co/PYMeocTtyz pic.twitter.com/1M6l1KdzLK
Lets get this out of the way: there is no shame at all in getting beat out by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Nick Senzel on this list. Vladdy Jr. is the top prospect in baseball by a very significant margin and while some of us may have their doubts as to whether he can stick at third, he is so good at the plate that he was going to be the top prospect wherever he was listed. Senzel has long been considered one of the top prospects in the game and frankly deserves the second spot. However, Riley being considered more valuable at this moment in time than Jonathan India and Alec Bohm (two top five picks out of college in the draft), Nolan Gorman, and others is no small task and speaks to just how much Riley has improved over the last couple of years. If he hadn’t hurt his knees and missed a chunk of the 2018 season and had put up similar numbers to what he had done in Mississippi earlier in the season, its possible he could have even beat out Senzel.
In 108 games in the minors this past season, Austin slashed .294/.360/.522 with 19 home runs while getting strong reviews from scouts for his work defensively at third base.