They might have to start calling Austin Riley Mr. May in Gwinnett
MLB.com's 34th-ranked prospect went 3-for-4 with two homers and three RBIs in the Triple-A Stripers' 9-2 win over Buffalo on Wednesday night at Coolray Field, Riley's third multi-homer game in eight days.
Video: Gwinnett's Riley homers again
The Braves' No. 5 prospect wasted no time with his first dinger, launching a 1-2 pitch from right-hander Jacob Waguespack over the wall in left-center field with one out in the first inning to open the scoring. He also capped the scoring in the eighth with a solo jack to left-center, estimated at 426 feet, off righty Francisco Rios.
"Obviously, I'm seeing the ball well," Riley said. "I've worked really hard on getting my swing where it is now."
It was the 22-year-old's 12th homer in 32 games this season. He also singled to left in the third and drew a bases-loaded walkin the sixth. Riley said he's put a lot of work into his swing to get to this point.
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"I've adjusted it a little bit to kind of be more consistent on catching up with fastballs that are higher velo," he said. "When I was thinking about being short to it, I was more down, a downward swing. I was fouling balls off, hitting popups in the infield. And with pitches that I was on time with, I wasn't squaring up."
Riley started working on his change in approach last season at Double-A Mississippi with Braves Minor League hitting coordinator Mike Brumley, continued it after a promotion to Gwinnett and through the offseason and the spring with the help of Stripers hitting coach Bobby Magallanes.
"How can I get in the zone earlier and then stay in it longer? A lot of guys when they're swinging at fastballs, they kind of get their body in the play, and I'm just kind of working my hands, trying to get it in the zone level, on plane, with the ball," Riley explained.
Wednesday's performance was his fourth multi-homer outing of the season and 10th in his last 13 games, a stretch that includes Saturday's two-homer, five RBI night. During that span, the 22-year-old third baseman is 23-for-49 (.469) with six doubles, 23 RBIs and 18 runs scored. It's boosted his average to .315 and his OPS to 1.073.
The Mississippi native worked hard during the spring to carry over and repeat his altered swing into the regular season, and he acknowledged some struggles along the way in April. He was hitting .185 after going 6-for-42 with four RBIs from April 7-17.
"I kind of lost it there a little bit," he said. "I was squaring balls up, but I think it was that multi-factor of when I did hit balls hard, it was right at guys. And the bad at-bats made it even worse."
Riley said he continued to trust his swing and built up his confidence while not trying to do too much at the plate.
"I felt like earlier in my career, whenever things were going bad I was having to relate to a hitting coach, a hitting coordinator, to help him point the stuff out to me," he said. "Now I can feel that and make in-game adjustments, at-bat to at-bat."
2019 MiLB include
And when the hits started falling, Riley got into a groove and stuck with the new swing that's produced some impressive dividends for the Stripers.
With 12 homers, the 41st overall pick in the 2015 Draft has matched his total in 75 games with Gwinnett last season. He put up a .294/.360/.522 slash line with 19 homers and 70 RBIs across three levels, earning MiLB.com Organization All-Star honors for the fourth straight season.
Braves No. 28 prospect Alex Jackson homered, doubled, drove in two runs and scored twice for Gwinnett.
Ninth-ranked Blue Jays prospect Cavan Biggio singled three times and plated a pair of runs for the Bisons.