Austin Riley Turns In Best All-Around Season
A sprained knee shelved third baseman Austin Riley for five-plus weeks following his promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett, but that was about the only thing that slowed him in 2018.
The 21-year-old power hitter shook off the rust after his July return and put together his most complete all-around season, hitting a combined .294/.360/.522 with 19 home runs and 30 doubles in 108 games.
Aside from his gaudy power numbers, Riley's most impressive trait in 2018 was his continued improvement at the hot corner. He made just eight errors in 102 games at the Double-A and Triple-A levels while continuing to demonstrate plus arm strength and accuracy on his throws.
"He really has a good feel for hitting,” assistant farm director Jonathan Schuerholz said. "He works so hard on both the offensive and defensive side, and that has really shown in the results. The sky is the limit for this guy.”
Righthander Touki Toussaint had the type of year that numerous scouts believed was possible when the Diamondbacks made him the 16th overall pick in 2014. For three years, control problems haunted him, which led in part to his trade to the Braves in July 2015.
Atlanta, meanwhile, remained patient with the hard-throwing Toussaint, realizing he had the athleticism and mental approach to overcome his struggles. A slower delivery showed initial improvements in 2017 before he blossomed at Double-A Mississippi and Gwinnett in 2018 prior to a mid-August callup to Atlanta.
In 136.1 minor league innings this year, he led the organization with a 2.38 ERA and 163 strikeouts while allowing just 101 hits and 53 walks.
In his initial taste of Triple-A, Toussaint went 5-0, 1.43 in eight starts and limited hitters to a .193 average. In his final three outings, he allowed one earned run, 11 hits and three walks in 19 innings while fanning 24.
Braves View Austin Riley As Vital To Future
Riley won rookie of the month honors in May but struggled to produce consistently afterward.
KEEP AN EYE ON
The Braves may have nabbed one of the steals of the 2018 draft when they selected third baseman C.J. Alexander in the 20th round out of the State JC of Florida.
In his pro debut, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Alexander hit a combined .352/.429/.495 with two home runs in 52 games between three levels. He received a surprise August promotion to the high Class A Florida State League after spending his first 22 games at the Rookie level.
"He’s a hoss with tremendous raw power and the hand-eye coordination to put the bat on the ball,” said Randy Ingle, a senior advisor for player development. "He made some impressive adjustments in a short period of time.”
Defense is the biggest question regarding the 22-year-old after he made 10 errors in 42 games. He has plus arm strength, which could easily play in right field if he can maintain his athleticism as he matures.