Here’s what the Braves should do when Camargo and Garcia return

Down, but not out of the picture. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Braves expect Johan Camargo and Adonis Garcia — hey, anybody remember Adonis Garcia? — to return soon. This would again make their infield a crowded place, which isn’t to say picking a lineup should be all that difficult. Here’s why.

1. Camargo needs to play third base on a regular basis. Brandon Phillips has had an OK season. (His Baseball-Reference WAR is 1.2, so it mightn’t be as good as the back-of-the-baseball-card numbers suggest.) He’s also 36, and he’s already out of position (third base now, as opposed to his usual second) and his contract is expiring. There’s no reason to play him every day in a meaningless September. Bradley’s Rule: Don’t lose with seniors. The Braves were surprised by what Camargo has given them. They need to learn if that was a blip, and it might well be: He hit .279 with an OPS of .703 in 2,111 minor-league plate appearances; he has hit .291 with an OPS of .797 in 197 big-league PAs.

2. Repeating the above: Camargo needs to play third base — not shortstop, not second base. Camargo’s emergence was the impetus behind Dansby Swanson’s relegation to Gwinnett. Swanson has returned and looks rather better. Ozzie Albies started slowly after his promotion but has begun to hit. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the only way Swanson and Albies could be lesser talents than Camargo is if every scout in baseball (and not just those employed by the Braves) got it wrong. The Swanson/Albies tandem remains this club’s keystone combo of the future, which means it needs to be the keystone combo of the here and now.

3. If Camargo’s audition for the third-base position in 2018 fizzles, he might still fill the role envisioned for Sean Rodriguez. The Braves traded Rodriguez — the same guy they’d rushed into the lineup, also at Swanson’s expense — because they now believe Camargo could be capable of playing several positions. (They think Danny Santana could do something similar.) They saved the $5.75 million Rodriguez is due next year, always a consideration with this organization, but the colder truth is that a guy slated to miss this season after being injured in a car crash appears to have returned too soon. He hit .162 with an OPS of .677 in 15 games here; he has hit .195 with an OPS of .713 in 19 games with Pittsburgh. The Braves love the idea of having a super-utility guy — their Ben Zobrist — and they hoped Jace Peterson would develop into one. He hasn’t. They thought Rodriguez would be the ticket. He wasn’t. The combination of Camargo/Santana is on the clock, but only if Camargo doesn’t cut it as an everyday third baseman.

4. Garcia doesn’t need to play. If not for a solid second half last season, Garcia would have been non-tendered over the winter. He hit .293 with an OPS of .789 after the 2016 All-Star break, and the Braves figured, “What’s the harm in one more year?” Well, this: He hit .247 with an OPS of .633 in 39 games wrapped around injuries. He’s 32. He has a career WAR of 0.6. (He’s at minus-0.3 this year.) He’s not part of any long-range plans. If he’s not going to be here in April, there’s no call for him to get many, if any, September innings.

5. Don’t forget Rio Ruiz. He was here briefly, to no great effect. He wound up being sent down after Camargo’s emergence, but it was curious that Brian Snitker, on the day of Garcia’s first return from injury, announced his not-very-good everyday third baseman would stay the everyday third baseman. A Garcia/Ruiz platoon might have worked, but the Braves’ manager nixed it. Ruiz figures to be back in September, and the possibility of a platoon with Camargo, who’s a switch hitter, might also be in play. Granted, Ruiz hasn’t had the greatest season at Gwinnett — he’s hitting .250 with an OPS of .771. Still, he has long been regarded as a mid-tier prospect. The Braves hold out hope for him.

6. And there’s Austin Riley. He’s 20. He has hit .292 with an OPS of .809 since he was promoted to Double-A Mississippi. He’s the third baseman the Braves got with the draft pick obtained from San Diego in the Craig Kimbrel/Melvin Upton Jr. deal. He won’t be here this September. Maybe soon, though.

Fresh posting: A “battle for the Braves’ soul”? Sorry, but I’m not buying it.

Reader Comments 0

29 comments
Buckhead Vol
Buckhead Vol

Well written as always Mark.  Interesting that the comments on the blog festered into a love vs hate on Lt. Dan and the article was primarily about the entire infield but namely Garcia and Johann.  I feel like the AJC and the Braves should not have hyped Lt. Dan so much (hindsight is 20/20!) and they (and us fans) would not be in this predicament.  Lt. Dan is not a MLB SS.  2b is his natural position.  Folks everywhere tend to ignore the fact that he leads SS's in the league in errors while playing fewer games.  But I agree with the point of your article - let all the prospects and youngsters play.  We will not know until we see them on the field.


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Buschleaguer
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blevins1491
blevins1491

Austin Riley is potentially a fine hitter, but has no range at 3rd base.  Look at the guy:  he should be converted to catcher.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@blevins1491 If the Riley get can hit 20 HR a season and make plays on the balls he can reach, he will be the Braves third baseman. Alex Jackson currently at AA Mississippi is being groomed as the Braves future catcher, he has batted .272 with 17HR and 60 RBI splitting time between High A and AA. He could possibly be ready by the end of 2018. The same with Riley who has 18 Hr and 68 Rbi splitting time at high A and AA this year.

TideDawg
TideDawg

Phillips is playing a great 3rd base but he's not the future. The Braves have to keep playing him and hope that another teams will take him off their hands. Swanson can play an adequate SS, but probably not a good 3rd, so can Camargo but Camargo can also   play 3rd. Swanson can play 2nd base. Camargo can play all 3 positions. Ruiz coming up to play 3rd may be an option. I see Albies as the odd man out. If Albies was an Altuve type, that would be a different story, but he's not and probably will not be. So, set in stone, Camargo at short, Swanson at second. Who plays 3rd base is the kicker. Albies will be part of a trade for a veteran starting pitcher. The Braves have options that many teams don't have.

MichaelDavis1951
MichaelDavis1951

@TideDawg First of all we don't have an option on Phillips, and there are only two days to trade him if he clears waivers.  So we will get nothing for Phillips.  And as far as Albies, you must not have been watching him the last two weeks.  He has started out slow every where and he has been hitting very well since the slow start.  Albies will be here a long time.  

David McCallum
David McCallum

@TideDawg That's silly!!! Why would the Braves trade Albies for a veteran pitcher. Anything to protect Swanson. Stop it!!! The Braves should not give up on Albies, period!

David McCallum
David McCallum

@TideDawg @MichaelDavis1951 Philips should be the one to sit down or put through waivers. The Braves organization has no business trading any of their young position players who have the potential to become stars. Camargo at Third; Swanson at SS; Albies at 2B. Let's see what they got together. Please Braves stop trying to build other team's playoff rosters. 

kindalazy
kindalazy

Camargo is a far superior defensive shortstop.  Why put him at third and leave a hack like Swanson at short.  Camargo has better range a far stronger arm and his glove is better than Dansby.

kindalazy
kindalazy

@BraveJon @kindalazy what is dumb?? That Dansby is so overrated or that Camargo is so underrated. Dansby may well end up being a good hitter,but he will never be a good defensive shortstop.

aburtch
aburtch

Good article. Agreed, Camargo was on fire when he was injured and needs to return to 3rd base. 


As for Swanson, give him time. Not everyone can be an instant superstar. 

BraveJon
BraveJon

@aburtch Carmargo was fizzling out when he got injured. He is not a prospect, , He is a utility guy.

Bob_the_Blogger
Bob_the_Blogger

The Braves have to give Camargo some playing time to determine what kind of ML player he'll be. Has he matured physically and made adjustments to the point that he can out-perform his minor league numbers?  There's only one way to find out - let him play.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

This is easy. Players 32 or over aren't at all likely to be here when the Braves become competitive again, so push them aside. Then, they have 4 or 5 players for three infield positions. Give them all playing time. Already have Swanson and Albies penciled in for next season (they don't have to play every day now), so find out what you can about Ruiz and Camargo. Maybe Camargo gets some time in the outfield, too.


More interested in pitching. Until we see some pitching it doesn't matter who's in the field.

GTONE
GTONE

LOL... He needs to play SS and Swanson needs to work on his game... 

58Supersports
58Supersports

@Stephen Phillips @GTONE Camargo is better than Swanson period...but Braves and media like to spin their love affair with locale w**t* hope. Camargo has better arm, more range,  hits both, speed, power. less errors....but give it to locale boy hitting 226.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Could be more they want us to move on past Andrelton Simmons, which considering the epic level of his defensive ability and his overall potential is VERY hard to swallow.

Densimulator
Densimulator

@58Supersports @Stephen Phillips @GTONE  I wouldn't say he's better period...   That's a pretty dumb statement.   He's had a solid year, but it's not much different than what Swanson did in 2016.  With the way Swanson has played since he was called back up the smart thing to do would be to play them both.   Swanson and Albies don't fit at 3B and Camargo can.   You play them all and see what happens. 

BraveJon
BraveJon

Are you a scout ? Have you looked at their minor league numbers ? Do you watch baseball ?

GTONE
GTONE

@Stephen Phillips @GTONE The odds of Swanson getting better at the major league level are NOT good... Camargo is a baseball player, that plays above and beyond Swanson's  ability. Period. I have NO idea what this love affair with Swanson.. I mean really.. It's really about playing the best players.. and of course to win baseball championships... Right..

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@GTONE @Stephen Phillips So after about 1 MLB season the oddsmakers say Swanson will not improve . Did the  same oddsmakers say Swanson was going to be a star when he hit .302 with a .803 OPS in 38 games last year. It is too early to say whether any of the three Braves infield prospects Swanson, Albies , or Camargo will be great or even adequate MLB player.