The Braves announced this morning that they’ve reinstated outfielder/third baseman Austin Riley from the 10-day injured list. A knee sprain wound up sidelining the young slugger for nearly a month.
Atlanta has had a starting outfield’s worth of injuries, with Riley joined by Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis on the shelf. In the absence of that trio, the Braves have utilized Matt Joyce, Rafael Ortega, Charlie Culberson, Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton in the outfield alongside young star Ronald Acuna Jr.
Leading up to his injury, Riley had seen his playing time diminish thanks to a dismal slump, but the general play of the Atlanta outfield during his absence could again lead to increased opportunities for playing time. Since Riley’s last game, non-Acuna outfielders for the Braves have batted a collective .228/.321/.320. Riley’s own offensive output cratered after his blistering start to the season, but improving upon that collective level of production is a fairly low bar to clear.
Riley burst onto the Braves’ roster with a .293/.333/.629 batting line and an 11 homers in his first month of MLB action but has faceplanted with a .192/.258/.383 slash and a 38.6 strikeout rate in 132 plate appearances since that time. He batted .250/.286/.325 with three doubles and 10 strikeouts in 42 plate appearances during a 10-game minor league rehab assignment.
Barring a catastrophic collapse, the Braves have the National League East locked down for a second straight season, so Riley’s return to the roster has little bearing on whatever glimmer of a race for the division title remains. However, getting Riley on back on track in advance of the postseason would provide a significant boon to the team’s chances of advancing beyond the NLDS for the first time since 2001.