Austin Riley of the Atlanta Braves has taken the league by storm. He’s clubbed eight home runs in his first 17 games of MLB action, which has resulted in him being named NL Rookie of the Month. Yeah, baby! You make me very horny. But then I became very conflicted, as perusing the advanced stats brought me to one conclusion, while observing the at-bats on YouTube took me in another direction. Not so shagadelic. Let’s see if we can determine if he’s trash or treasure.

Riley is only 22 years old, 6′ 3″ tall, and weighs 220 pounds. He began his professional career in 2015. Scouts gave him a 70 grade for raw power, and he hasn’t disappointed.

YEAR PA HR
2015 252 12
2016 543 20
2017 542 20
2018 455 19
2019 162 15

The 2019 stats are from Triple-A only.

He’s never been a huge walk guy, but has eclipsed the 10% mark three times in his minor league career. The strikeout rate has fluctuated from 21% to as high as 30%. Interestingly, he’s had a BABIP over .350 six times, yet the batting average has been over .300 just three times. Before he received the call up to The Show this season, Riley spent 37 games in Triple-A, where he walked 11.1%, struck out only 19.1%, and had a batting average of .299 with a .286 BABIP. Maybe it is for real. Groovy, baby!

Well…..so far in 71 plate appearances with the big club, Riley has a 4.2% walk rate and a 35.2% strikeout rate. Yuck. Want more vomit-inducing numbers? 21.5% swinging strike rate, 38.3% chase rate, and 68.2% contact rate in the strike zone with a 60.7% contact rate in general. Good thing I collected all those barf bags from every plane flight I took when younger. Coming in real handy now.

There are also numbers that scream regression. Riley is currently sporting a .412 BABIP, which is fueling a .328 batting average. He has shown to be a high BABIP hitter, but .412 is just unsustainable. In addition, he has a .388 ISO. There have only been 12 seasons in the history of baseball in which a player posted a higher ISO. Barry Bonds four times, Babe Ruth three times, Mark McGwire three times, Sammy Sosa once, and Lou Gehrig once. Before I continue, let’s pay homage to 2001 Barry Bonds, who posted a .536 ISO that season. Ha! Back to our regularly scheduled programming. Riley is currently sporting a 44.4% HR/FB rate. Uh, yeah.

See why I’m conflicted?

Now that I’ve washed my mouth with Listerine and have that minty, tingly sensation rejuvenating me, Riley has a hard hit rate of 52.4%. If he qualified, that would place him in the top 10. We know the power is legit, so I’ll move on.

47.6% of his hits are going towards the center of the field. The oppo percentage is 26.2%. I love to see that kind of approach. The thing is, he’s primarily been a pull hitter his whole career, as the pull percentage was often in the 48-49% range. I’d usually automatically dismiss this as an outlier and move on, but when I went onto YouTube and watched some of his at-bats, I was very impressed. He shortened his swing with two strikes, went the opposite way on pitches out of the strike zone, and was also able to drive the ball to right-center with power. He was crushing up-and-in fastballs, from both righties and lefties, and driving off-speed pitches away.

Now I’m just mind f’ing myself.

So I went to Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball to see how pitchers were attacking him. It looks like the standard up-and-in, low-and-away approach. 12.15% of pitches are being thrown low-and-away, the most by a wide margin. No other zone has seen more than 7%. Riley’s power has been up-and-in, and middle to high-middle. Interestingly, the zone in which he whiffs the most is up-and-away. I would’ve thought it’d be low-and-away, but that’s not the case.

I write this every week it seems like, but pitchers will always adjust and figure out new ways to attack a hitter. Eventually, they will find a weakness. Then, it’s up to the hitter to adjust to the adjustment. Well, pitchers are going to start attacking Riley differently, and he will regress. It’s inevitable. My initial thoughts are that pitchers will throw more heat up-and-away and also start throwing more pitches outside of the zone. Riley loves to swing and is in such a groove that he’s likely going to be swinging in the short term. If pitches are off the plate, it will be more difficult to barrel up the ball. Will Riley be able to lay off and take a walk if it’s given? Will that throw off his timing? I’d feel more comfortable with Riley if the underlying numbers supported a soft landing or higher floor, but the swinging strike, contact, and chase rates all scare me that things could fall off a cliff precipitously. With that said, the at-bats look so damn pretty when I watch them, but that’s what YouTube highlights do. Mostly show the good, but numbers don’t lie. And I have to side with those here.

TRASH

  1. Juan Soda says:
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    Trade targets to send Riley on his way for? Tough to gage these hot prospects.

    • Son

      Son says:
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      Gotta send out the scouts for recon. Everyone values players differently, especially with prospects like you said.

  2. Steve says:
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    Offer Riley for JoRam?

    • Son

      Son says:
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      I’d gladly take JoRam for Riley, but I’m not sure the JoRam would go for it. You know your league and owners better than me, though.

  3. I’m torn. Sample size in the bigs is small. His minor league track record would seem to indicate he’s actually better than he’s shown, with regard to walk-rate & k’s.

    So while I agree regression is due, and pitchers will adjust, I’m not going to discount Riley’s ability to adjust with them.

    Perhaps it’s relevant to check what he’s done 1st, 2nd, 3rd time through the lineup so see how he adapts to pitchers who are trying different ways to get him out.

    It’ll be interesting to see if his walk rate climbs as pitchers start throwing junk off the plate.

    Certainly likely he’s closer to a .280s hitter than a .330s hitter, no doubt. But let’s say his walk rate comes back to his ~10%, and his average drops 20 points. If he hits 30 bombs as a rookie with 80+ RBI, would anyone complain?

    Remember, this is a rookie also adapting to big league pitching. I’d expect his K’s to go up & walls to go down compared to his minor league track record.

    Hard to see him maintaining this pace, but difficult to call him “trash”considering. I’m certainly excited to find out what happens – kid’s made it look easy so far.

    • Son

      Son says:
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      Good stuff Lucky Dog. Yeah, I’m very intrigued to see how he adjusts to the adjustments. He obviously has the power, but it is his first time in the majors and he has some sizeable holes in his game. Could he be an outlier? Sure, but signs indicate that being a low probability bet.

      The trash designation is relative. I’m not saying he’s doo doo brown or anything, but I do have to choose between trash and treasure.

      • Lucky Dog says:
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        Maybe you need a “recyclables” bin to stash him in.

        Rofl

        • Son

          Son says:
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          Ha! A good idea

  4. NJ says:
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    I just traded Snell and Riley for Scherzer…hope it works out.

    • Son

      Son says:
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      I like it. Good luck

  5. Bring Back the Brown says:
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    Trash or Treasure?
    Martin Perez
    Domingo German
    Jon Gray
    Lance Lynn
    Diego Castillo
    C.Archer

    • Son

      Son says:
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      Perez – think he regresses a bit, but still like him, especially in that division
      German – think he’s fine
      Gray – fine
      Lynn – hesitant to use him against lefty-heavy lineups. Plus, weather going to heat up soon
      in Texas.
      Castillo – no worries
      Archer – TRASH =)

  6. Edgar Gonzalez says:
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    Got offered Harper for Riley and my 2nd pick for next years draft. Worth the take ? Don’t need Harper haha better outfielders

    • Son

      Son says:
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      For me, it’s a no brainer

  7. Scruffy Woodruff says:
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    I just traded riley and ryu for soroka and devers in my keeper league.

    • Son

      Son says:
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      I like it

      • Scruffy Woodruff says:
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        I couldn’t take the stress of waiting for Ryu’s next injury anymore

        • Son

          Son says:
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          Ha! I get it. Question for you: if Ryu stays healthy and balls out, would that put you on tilt?

          • Scruffy Woodruff says:
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            yea, this was a risky trade for me. If Riley is the second coming I will blame you.

            • Son

              Son says:
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              Ha! What do I win if he isn’t? And what duration are we working with here?

              • Scruffy Woodruff says:
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                lol. by the end of next season I need to feel confident that devers/soroka > riley. I am brushing up on my hitter keeper limit already but could use another cheap arm. need soroka to stick. would never keep ryu..

                • Scruffy Woodruff says:
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                  can only keep three from this bunch:

                  Trout
                  Sanchez
                  Franmil
                  Urias
                  K Marte
                  Senzel

                  It is a harder choice than you would think because Trout was expensive and everyone else but Sanchez was a $54 vending machine steak.

                  Potential Pitcher keepers are (choose 3):
                  Luzardo
                  Paddack
                  Canning
                  German
                  Soroka

                  It is an extremely competitive 14-team league so I am in real good shape here with these choices

                  • Son

                    Son says:
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                    Indeed. You’re in good shape

                • Son

                  Son says:
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                  Whenever I have to make a decision and it’s a toss up, I figure out which scenario would piss me off more, then do the opposite. That works for me and gives me peace of mind, as long as I did all the due diligence.

  8. JC says:
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    My Riley and Chavis for Abreau ok?

    • Son

      Son says:
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      Yes sir

  9. Hebrew Hammer says:
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    16 team H2H DYNASTY keeper

    What is a fair value to place on Winker?
    I need FA cash ($60 is minimum bid per FA)

    He’s got W. Franco in minors. But I’ve got Bichette.
    I’m 8-1 and could use FA cash, but how much is fair to ask for?

    • Son

      Son says:
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      I’m a little confused here. You’re trying to sell Winker for FA cash?

  10. Hebrew Hammer says:
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    Sorry for confusion. 16 team H2H keeper

    1.) what’s a fair return for Winker player wise?

    2.) I’d like to get FA cash bc i only have $60 for ROS. Minimum bid on any FA is $60 in our league.
    $60 basically one FA pickup, unless you get outbid.

    Do I ask for $60,$120,$180 cash in return?
    I have no idea what a fair amount would be. Waiver wire is super thin bc league size.

    Thankyou

    • Son

      Son says:
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      All good.

      Value is relative, so I always advocate sending out the scouts. With that said, maybe Brendan Rodgers or Caleb Smith? Like I said, though, it’s tough because everyone has different values for players.

      As for the $$$, I’d suggest to go back into the transaction history and look at the prices that players have gone for in your league. That should give you an idea and provide intel on how other owners think.

      • Hebrew Hammer says:
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        Appreciate the knowledge, thankyou

        • Son

          Son says:
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          Anytime

      • baby seal says:
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        What do u mean when u say “sending out the scouts,” Son?

        • Son

          Son says:
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          Get intel. Whether it be talking to the other owners or looking at past transactions to get a feel for what others are thinking or perusing rosters to see where strengths and weaknesses lie, etc.

          I play too much Civ

          • baby seal says:
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            Hah. Have been trying to help my friend sell Riley, but this is one of those that’s very difficult to size up…

            Think maybe this should’ve been a bull vs bear? Since you seem to like Riley and really just mean “sell.” Can see how someone would think you’re crazy for calling him trash.

            Cheers,
            Baby Seal

            • Son

              Son says:
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              Rookies are always tough because it’s all unknown, which provides a wide discrepancy of perceptions and opinions.

              I guess there’s a difference between trash/treasure and bull/bear, but both pieces do essentially the same thing, which is buy/sell. Your point, as others have stated as well, is acknowledged and understood, though.

              • baby seal says:
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                All good! Thanks!

  11. Harley Earl says:
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    Trash, huh?

    Everyone said the same thing about Trevor Story.

    Maybe you forget Riley is 22 years old, same age Story was when he came up. He’s young, he’ll adjust back. He’s a career .284 hitter in the minors with a career .350 on-base percentage. That tells me he’s intelligent and making adjustments. Sure he’ll regress, but he’ll also adjust. That’s what intelligent hitters do.

    By the way, your post is out-dated. Riley hit his 9th HR in his 18th game last night. A three-run shot that gave the Braves the lead in the 7th inning Tuesday night. Oh, but I forgot, he sucks.

    Trash? My ass. Yeah, you lost me pal.

    • Son

      Son says:
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      I respect the passion and am always interested in hearing different perspectives, but I’d at least appreciate if you read my piece before commenting. Thanks.

      • Harley Earl says:
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        I read every word of your piece.

        Calling Riley trash is unfuckingbelievably ignorant. So what if you threw in a couple of disclaimers saying you like his YouTube videos and blah blah blah. You’re net result was trade his ass away because he’s trash.

        If you think I’m going to take that advice, you’re out of your asinine mind.

        • Son

          Son says:
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          Uh, trash in this context is a relative term. Do I think he’s trash in the simplest form of the word? Of course not! He’s one of the 1% of the people on this planet that can do what he does.

          Do I think he continues to mash like he’s doing? Nope, hence the trash designation.

          If you read every word of my piece, then you would know that I was very conflicted with designating Riley, as I was very impressed with his at-bats. With that said, the numbers told me another thing. As Lucky Dog said, maybe I need to add a “RECYCLABLE” designation.

          As for trading him away, I would if I could get value. Everyone has a price. The euphoria, as evidenced by your passion, is at an all-time high. If I could get a haul for him, I’d for sure trade him away.

          I don’t care if you take my advice or not. I’m just writing my opinions and thoughts. I think everyone should consume as much info and different perspectives as possible in order to come to a conclusion and make decisions themselves

          • Harley Earl says:
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            That’s fair. I’ll buy that.

            Of course he doesn’t continue mashing at this pace. If he did, he’d hit 81 HRs in 162 games. But even if his batting average slips all the way to .240 or .250, I believe 30 HR is possible. To me, that’s worth a lot in any league and certainly not trash or someone you trade away lightly.

            Maybe I took the trash/treasure label out of context. It just felt unfair to the guy after what he’s done. One of the fastest in history to nine HR deserves better.

            I see your stance, and it makes sense if you can deal him for a haul, so I don’t completely disagree. But anything less than a haul might be a big mistake.

            • Son

              Son says:
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              Agreed.

              Glad we were able to hash things out.

              • Harley says:
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                I’m not always an asshole I promise!

                • Son

                  Son says:
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                  Neither am I. Just most of the time

                  • Harley Earl says:
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                    Haha!!

  12. dustyfingers says:
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    His swinging strike rate is on the decline. Contact rate is on the rise. He’s not getting a lot of walks, but that is on the rise. There is much that looks negative right now, but he realizes it and is actively working on the strike out problem. Let’s see if he can adjust. He did it on all levels before.

    • Son

      Son says:
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      You’re right. Those numbers have been improving. Like I wrote, I was conficted with Riley, as I was very impressed from watching some of his at-bats. With that said, it does come down to adjusting to the adjustments. I just think with his profile, that the floor is pretty low when it happens, and could take some time to find that equilibrium. There are always outliers and am not dismissing the possiblity that it happens. Probability is low in my opinion

      • dustyfingers says:
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        For sure. If you can get some good value for him now, it could be worth cashing out. Kind of fun holding to see how it plays out.

        • Son

          Son says:
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          Everyone always has a price. When euphoria is at its highest, that is when you can get the most value. When the streets are filled with blood are when you can get the best deals.

          I see you also like to live dangerously. =)

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        +1 Son

        • Son

          Son says:
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          Is it a black tie event, Grey?

          • Grey

            Grey says:
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            Well, I am wearing black track pants

            • Son

              Son says:
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              My Sergio Valente jumpsuit has been waiting for this day!

              • Grey

                Grey says:
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                Tacchini or GTFO

                • Son

                  Son says:
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                  Ha! Tacchini is dope, but Valente and Adidas FO LIFE!!!

                  • Grey

                    Grey says:
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                    Fo sho!

  13. Dan McCabe says:
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    Shopped riley around in my league. Wanted a SP2. Ended up getting calib Smith. I feel like it was the right move but he just keeps raking

    • Son

      Son says:
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      Process over results. You did the research and made a decision. Have confidence in that research and know that we cannot predict the future.

Comments are closed.