The partially torn right LCL that sent Braves third baseman/corner outfielder Austin Riley to the injured list last week will not require surgery, Mark Bowman of MLB.com was among those to report. Now that his season will continue, Riley’s hoping to start a minor league rehab assignment two weeks from now, according to Bowman.
The 22-year-old Riley joined the Braves in the middle of May, at which point he ranked as one of baseball’s 50 best prospects. Riley, whose promotion came in response to an injury to outfielder Ender Inciarte, began his career in excellent fashion. He owned an OPS upward of .900 as of the end of June, though Riley has come crashing to earth more recently. He’s now a .242/.294/.504 hitter with 17 home runs through his first 255 plate appearances, during which he has fanned in 35.3 percent of trips and walked in just over 5 percent.
With Josh Donaldson holding down third and right fielder Nick Markakis on the IL, the Riley-less Braves have been going with Adam Duvall in left, Inciarte in center and superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. in right. Inciarte has performed well dating back to his return July 18, while Duvall’s numbers have plummeted since a red-hot start after the Braves promoted him from Triple-A Gwinnett toward the end of last month.
The Braves’ infield, meanwhile, has been making do without shortstop Dansby Swanson since July 27 because of a heel issue. There’s still no timetable for his return, per Bowman, while David O’Brien of The Athletic adds that he’s not able to do much of anything in terms of baseball activities at this point. Doctors have told Swanson the injury isn’t something he’d be able to play through. It’s especially unfortunate considering the former No. 1 overall pick was enjoying a career season before he landed on the shelf. The 25-year-old has slashed .265/.330/.468 (103 wRC+) with 17 homers and seven steals over 431 trips to the plate.
Atlanta has replaced Swanson with a combination of Johan Camargo and Charlie Culberson. Camargo has endured a dreadful year after what looked like a breakout 2018, while Culberson’s still-impressive output has declined since he took on a greater role. Nevertheless, the Braves continue to hold a six-game lead in the National League East.