Braves beat writer Mark Bowman speculates upon the potential arrival date for third baseman Austin Riley, who was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett over the weekend. Riley destroyed the Southern League to begin the season, and as Bowman notes, now has little resistance to keep him from overtaking the third base job in Atlanta.
The Braves were pleased with what they saw from Bautista defensively this past weekend, and time will tell what he can still offer from an offensive perspective. If the 37-year-old veteran is productive and Atlanta remains in postseason contention throughout the summer, there’s certainly reason to think Riley might not reach the Majors until September, much like Freddie Freeman in 2010.
During last year’s Spring Training, Chipper Jones said Riley has the potential to spend many seasons batting directly behind Freeman in the middle of Atlanta’s order. It’s too early to project when the young third baseman will arrive. But this year’s early results have at least provided reason to think third base might not be a priority when the Braves begin shopping during their offseason.
Bowman also alludes to the possibility that the Braves will pursue closer Craig Kimbrel in free agency this offseason as well as the possibility that Mike Soroka will remain in the big league rotation for the remainder of the season.
As noted above, Riley is headed to Triple-A, but the Braves promoted two other promising young players on Sunday. Right-handed pitcher Bryse Wilson is now in Double-A Mississippi after an otherworldly performance to begin the season in High-A Florida, and left-hander Kyle Muller will fill his spot in Florida after pitching well in Low-A Rome to open the campaign. These moves reaffirm how deep and talented the Braves’ farm system still is despite promotions of other top prospects.
The Braves have been without left-handed pitcher Luiz Gohara for the first month of the season, but now it appears the 21-year-old will join the Atlanta bullpen. Gohara was impressive in his stint with the big club last season, when he was used a starter, but to expedite the process of his return he will be used as a reliever in the short-term. Stay tuned for an official announcement from the organization.
Nick Markakis has a very pleasant surprise thus far in 2018, slashing .344/.428/.550 while sporting a hefty 169 OPS+ through the first month of the season. With Markakis producing at such a high level, one which he has not even remotely approached in his first three seasons with the Braves, our own Demetrius Bell looks at another former Atlanta outfielder who experienced a similar breakout in their mid-30’s: Lonnie Smith.
Nick Markakis is on pace to have what would be his best season in a Braves uniform and he’d fly by what he’d done so far with the Braves. Going into Sunday afternoon’s game, he was already sitting on 1.8 fWAR, which is actually better than the 1.4 fWAR he put up for the entire 2015 season which was his best season with the team so far. It’s very unusual to see a player like Markakis being on pace for a career year at age 34, but it’s not unprecedented.
Lonnie Smith hit .315/.415/.533 with 21 homers, an ISO number of .218 and 166 wRC+, which ended up being good for an astonishing 8.1 fWAR. As usual during the ‘80s, the Braves were terrible and only finished 63-97 that year but Lonnie Smith as an individual had never reached such heights and also added a 4.0 fWAR season in 1990, to boot. Again, this basically came out of nowhere — especially when you consider that this was Smith’s age-33 season.