Sadly, Austin Riley‘s offseason routine began prematurely, but the 2023 Silver Slugger had another great season hunting windows in Atlanta.
Riley won his second Silver Slugger award and has cemented himself among the best – if not THE BEST – third basemen in all of baseball. Young Thicc, as he is often referred to, hit .281 with 37 HRs and 97 RBI in 2023. He had an .861 OPS and 5.9 fWAR in a stellar season. Riley’s approach of hunting windows has clearly reaped he and the Braves a harvest of rewards.
And yet, 2023 often felt like it could have been so much more for Riley. Teammate Matt Olson won his first Silver Slugger Award, hitting behind Austin most of the year. Olson set a franchise-record with 54 HRs and 139 RBI, in part because Riley struggled in RISP situations. According to his Baseball Savant page, in 200 plate appearances, the young slugger hit just .199 with an OPS of .743.
After signing the biggest contract in club history last August, Riley tapered off down the stretch in 2022. But 2023 saw the former first-round pick take hold of the hot-corner defensively. When you add his prowess at the plate, Riley is one of the players AA is building the team around. Finishing Top 10 in hits, runs scored, and HRs in a season that could have been more speaks to his talent.
Riley should have the MVP squarely in his sights next season as he keeps hunting windows. I look for 2024 to be his best season yet. All he has to do is be marginally productive with the bases loaded (.214 OPS) and men on 2nd/3rd (.402 OPS.) If he does that, he will run away with an MVP award. This season, nearly half of his HRs (18) came with the bases empty. A little better batted ball luck and some timely hits will cement him as the best in baseball.
I cannot wait for Spring Training and the ’24 season!