DeSoto Central's Riley picked in MLB Draft

BOB BAKKEN

Sports Editor

The biggest questions about Monday's Major League Baseball Draft and DeSoto Central's Austin Riley came down to "when?" and "where?"

Baseball fans who have followed his high school career got the answers to those questions fairly quickly, as Riley, an infielder/pitcher with the MHSAA 6A state champion Jaguars, was selected 41st overall by the Atlanta Braves on the draft's first day.

Riley's draft pick came in what was termed the Competitive Balance Round A, a short period between the first and second rounds where six teams made selections.

While Riley both pitched and played in the infield for DeSoto Central, the Mississippi State commitment is seen more for his hitting than for his pitching.

The next decision will now be whether to continue with his college track, where he'll be a freshman in Starkville in the fall, or if he'll want to make the jump to the professional ranks.

This past season, Riley hit at a .423 clip for the Jaguars on their way to the 6A state title. He clouted 11 home runs and drove in 31 runs.

On the mound, Austin was 7-2 for the season with a 2.70 ERA, struck out 82 while walking jump 19 batters.

In comments about Riley's potential on the MLB Draft Tracker website, it was noted many teams initially looked at him as a pitcher, but now his future seems to be brighter as a third baseman. Experts still see some areas for improvement and some questions remain about his abilities at this point, such as bat speed to catch up on quality fastballs, but they have also noted his soft hands and clean infield actions.

Scouts have seen a lot of Riley this spring, as they have been seen with radar guns checking speeds at almost every DeSoto Central baseball game.

The Braves' beat writer for MLB.com, Mark Bowman, noted on Twitter that Atlanta liked Riley's power potential at the plate.

Riley did continue what has been a recent tradition for Mississippi baseball players in the MLB Draft, that of having a top-50 selection each year since 2011.

The draft continued Tuesday and Wednesday and Riley teammate Dallas Woolfolk is listed by Baseball America as the number 5 Mississippi prospect.

Ex-Jaguar outfielder Clay Casey of Northwest Mississippi Community College was listed at number 10 for Mississippi by Baseball America.

However, as of Wednesday afternoon, neither had been selected.

Northwest second baseman Dalton Dulin was picked in the 17th round by Washington Nationals.

Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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