Austin Riley was once a fairly highly hyped prospect, and while he’s gotten an opportunity in the Majors the past two seasons you can argue that he’s been a bit exposed. He’s gotten nearly a full year’s of Plate Appearances over the two years (503 PA), but the results have been questionable:
.232 with 26 HR, 76 RBI, 65 R, 0 SB
Obviously the power is there, though that’s not completely surprising. That said there are going to be questions as the indicators regressed significantly in his sophomore season:
While those numbers are somewhat concerning, the fact that his average home run travelled 424 feet and posting an average Exit Velocity of 91 mph is very telling. The power should be there, with 30+ HR potential.
So the bigger question is, is he capable of hitting for a strong enough average?
The answer to that question rests solely on his ability to make consistent contact. Last season he posted a rather ugly 14.8% SwStr% and 37.1% O-Swing%, as he struggled against all types of pitches (Whiff%):
- Hard – 13.44%
- Breaking – 19.60%
- Offspeed – 27.87%
He only saw 56.21% hard pitches in ’20, but would it be shocking to see that further decrease? As it is it’s likely that his strikeout rate rises from the 23.8% he posted last season (36.4% in ’19). The power will help to offset the concerns and he is willing to use the entire field (28.1% Oppo%), so just a slight increase in his .280 BABIP would go a long way.
No one is going to mistake him for a .300 hitter, but if he could hit .260 with power? That would definitely be enough, as it could come with ample RBI. That’s exactly what we have projected for him in 2021:
.260 (143-550), 31 HR, 85 RBI, 80 R, 0 SB, .317 BABIP, .311 OBP, .487 SLG
While he’s not necessarily a player we’d target highly, the upside is there to be an impact bat.