Braves prospect Riley homers in second at-bat

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The Braves gave another top prospect his shot. Austin Riley wasted no time taking advantage of the opportunity.

Riley homered in his second at-bat in the big leagues, launching a high fastball from Michael Wacha deep into the left-field seats, to give Atlanta a two-run lead over St. Louis in the fourth inning of what turned out to be a 4-0 victory Wednesday.

Riley, 22, struck out swinging in his first trip to the plate, but he sent his father and about 40 friends and family — many of whom hastily made the trip from his native Mississippi — into a raucous celebration with a 438-foot drive the next time up.

Riley, recently rated baseball’s No. 87 overall prospect by ESPN’s Keith Law, was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett after a dominant start in the International League, in which he was hitting .299 and leading the circuit with 15 homers and 39 RBIs. A roster spot opened when center fielder Ender Inciarte was placed on the 10-day injured list with a sore back.

He hit another drive to the edge of the warning track his next time up, and handled a couple of chances without any problem in left. Normally a third baseman, he figures to mostly play left field at least during his initial stint in the big leagues.

Riley wasn’t expecting the promotion, knowing that there was a logjam in the infield behind third baseman Josh Donaldson and first baseman Freddie Freeman.7

“I had no clue,” Riley said before the game. “I was kind of waiting my turn. I hate Ender went down last night, but I’m happy to be here, and hopefully I can help out.”

Ronald Acuna Jr. moved over to play center field, giving Riley a chance to get extensive time in left. He also can play third base when Donaldson needs a day off.

Riley was a first-round pick in 2015 and joins the Baby Braves lineup that includes the 21-year-old Acuna, 22-year-old second baseman Ozzie Albies and 25-year-old shortstop Dansby Swanson.

Donaldson has a one-year contract, and Riley’s promotion gives the Braves a chance to see whether he is ready to take over at third base on a full-time basis next season.

He certainly looked like he was prepared during his time at Gwinnett. He hit 13 homers in his last 18 games, including four multi-homer performances. With Inciarte hitting just .218, there’s a chance Riley could be in Atlanta for the long term even if third base is not open.