In this edition of the Atlanta Braves organizational depth review we are going to look at one of the top-heavier positions on the team in third base. It features one of the better players in the NL and a few selections from the 2022 draft.
Austin Riley went from being one of the better prospects in the minors in 2019, to having his long-term outlook questioned in 2021 after two sluggish MLB seasons. He then became one of the best third basemen in the game after two fantastic seasons. Riley, who was one of three Braves to receive MVP votes last season, finished sixth for the award in the NL. Like so many other stars on this Atlanta roster, the Braves were able to lock up Riley to an extension that bought out multiple years of free agency. Last summer he signed a 10-year deal worth $212,000,000, Atlanta additionally has a club option for an 11th season worth $20,000,000.
Last season the 25-year-old was in the 95th percentile or better in average exit velocity, hard hit percentage, xWOBA, xSLG and barrel percentage. The scary thing for the rest of the league is he has yet to reach his prime and is still improving. In 2022 his chase and whiff rate were both the lowest they’ve been in his career and his zone contact percentage was the highest. Riley winning an MVP down the road is certainly not out of the question.
Behind Riley, the Braves lack a true third baseman on their 40-man roster. Orlando Arcia is likely to serve as the team's backup third basemen and will potentially the backup to a few other positions as well. He is rather inexperienced at the hot corner having only played 50 innings there in the Majors, with 32 of those innings coming last season for Atlanta. Arcia has a lifetime triple slash line of .243/.295/.369 which is slightly worse than the numbers from his 2022 season where he hit 9 home runs. Due to Arcia’s lack of experience at third as well as his shortcomings as a hitter, I expect the Braves to try and bring in a bench bat who can play third at some point during the season.
The cupboard is pretty barren when it comes to third base prospects who weren’t drafted last season. The only player of note is currently not even a third baseman in Ambioris Tavarez. Tavarez is currently a shortstop in the Braves’ system, although there is some belief that he will eventually shift over to third as he continues to develop physically. The 2021 international signee is coming off his debut season with the Braves where he had an OPS of .689 along with 1 home run and 28 strikeouts in 65 at bats. MLBPipeline currently projects him as a player with 50 hit and power with the chance to develop better power as he gains more experience.
The Braves drafted two third base prospects in the 2022 MLB Draft with the first being David McCabe who was taken in the 4th round. The switch hitter, who will turn 23 before the start of the season, got 100 at bats at Single-A last year which saw him hit .260 in addition to one home run and 27 strikeouts. McCabe is currently projected as a power first hitter, and as he continues to develop, his power tool is likely to become more and more prevalent. Outside of his pop, the only other tool he has above average is a strong throwing arm which should allow him to stick at third in the long run. The second third baseman that the Braves selected in the 2023 draft was Ignacio Alvarez who they took the round after McCabe. Impressively, the 19 year old drew 26 walks compared to 15 strikeouts over 94 at bats in his professional debut season. It is very abnormal for a young player to produce those kinds of numbers, especially in their first pro season indicating that Alvarez might have a bright future at the dish. Like Tavarez, he is currently a shortstop, although there is a strong possibility that he moves to third base down the road.