It is funny how a year can change things. Last year, many criticized the acquisition of Josh Donaldson due to the Braves having an up and coming third baseman named Johan Camargo. Now, those same fans feel robbed that the franchise did not bring back Donaldson on a long-term deal.
Donaldson was about as good of a player as you can get on a one-year contract. Signing him was not a knock on Johan Camargo’s performance in 2018 whatsoever, as he posted a WAR above 3 as a starter.
The Latin America-born infielder was never a highly-touted prospect coming up the pipeline but impressed with his high contact tool and defensive prowess at the upper levels of the minors, earning his first crack with the major league club. That translated to the next level, as Camargo hit .299 in his first stint with the Braves and established his spot on the roster full-time. Then 2018 came, and seemingly out of nowhere, Camargo went from a pure contact guy to a well-rounded everyday player. He had the best power output of his entire professional career, recording 19 home runs, 76 RBI and a .806 OPS in just 134 games. Still, passing up on an MVP-talent like Donaldson on a one-year deal was something Anthopoulos could not refuse
The thought was that Donaldson would step into the everyday role, and Camargo would operate as a super-utility player, starting at various positions around the diamond. However, the situation was mismanaged from the get-go, and Camargo failed to see anything near consistent at-bats. As a result, he slumped severely in 2019. The Braves sent him back down to AAA to receive regular at-bats, and that’s where we began to see the Camargo of old again. He set Gwinnett Country on fire, going 28-58 with 8 extra-base hits and 15 RBI, which was all the organization needed to see. Though a tiny sample size, upon being promoted back to the bigs, Camargo continued on his tear, going 5-for-11 with two bombs. He was getting hot right before the postseason, but he then suffered a hairline fracture in his shin, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Injuries were not the only thing holding his body back in 2019, though.
Though he primarily plays third base, Camargo was clocked in as the slowest shortstop in baseball last season at 25.6 feet/second, and that is a big reason why the Braves brought Adeiny Hechavarria on board. Understandably, Camargo felt that he was not at the right playing weight, and he has cut 18 pounds this offseason, looking as slim as he did when he first arrived to the majors:
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) February 14, 2020
Consistent playing time and being in better shape could be an excellent recipe for success in 2020. Camargo was so fun to watch in 2018. He is talented and has some of the best hair in baseball. The Braves also have Austin Riley, who can play third base, and odds are one of the two will be able to fill in for Donaldson admirably. Camargo’s 2020 performance will be a noteworthy X-Factor in regards to the team’s success, and he will likely receive the first crack as the starting third baseman.