Unless the Braves suffer another injury to one of their position players — which at this point seems more likely than not — Johan Camargo’s 2020 has probably come to an end.
The 26-year-old utility man began the year in a competition for the job as the starting third baseman. Austin Riley left the door wide open for Camargo after beginning the season dreadfully with the stick, but Camargo never could take advantage. He struggled to stay above the Mendoza line, and his OPS last sat higher than the .700-mark on August 4th. For a player that finished 2018 with an fWAR over three as the team’s starting third baseman, Camargo’s career has come to a crashing halt, and his future in Atlanta is as bleak as ever.
To be fair, Camargo received the short end of the stick going into 2019. There aren’t many players that hit for a OPS over .800 while playing great defense in 134 games that lose their job in the offseason. However, the Braves signed Josh Donaldson to a one-year contract, with the plan being to use Johan Camargo as a super-utility piece because of his versatility.
That experiment went wrong in multiple ways. Brian Snitker didn’t utilize Camargo often enough to find a rhythm, and he clearly wasn’t as comfortable coming off the bench. This led to Camargo being demoted to Gwinnett. He did make a brief return to Atlanta after mashing the ball for the Stripers; however, it was short-lived. His season ended early after he fouled a ball off of his shin, resulting in a fracture.
Fast forward to 2020, and Camargo was given every opportunity to thrive. The third base job was his had he performed anywhere near his 2018 form over the first month of the season. However, he never took advantage of Austin Riley’s struggles — now Riley appears to have staked his claim as the Braves’ third baseman of the future.
That was always the plan, after all. The Braves were simply waiting for Riley to prove he was ready to take over the everyday role. After his lengthy slump to end the 2019 season, Atlanta couldn’t just hand him the job. Riley had to earn it, and that’s what he’s done since the calendar turned to August. Over his last thirty games (entering Wednesday), Riley has a respectable .269 average with six homers and 19 RBIs — good for a .819 OPS. He’s been even hotter as of late.
#Braves' Austin Riley has hit .310 (22-for-71) w/ 9 extra-base hits (4 homers), 14 RBIs, 12 strikeouts and a .927 OPS in his past 19 games.
That's after hitting .150 (9-for-60) w/ 4 extra-base hits (3 homers), 8 RBIs, 22 strikeouts and a .517 OPS in his first 18 games.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) September 9, 2020
Beyond the stats, the simple eye test shows how far Riley’s come. He is striking out less and walking more. He’s also played a pretty good glove at the hot corner. It’s apparent Riley has fixed his approach at the plate, and his numbers should only get better with experience. Unless something drastic happens, he will not only be the third baseman for the rest of this season but to start next season as well.
So, where does that leave Johan Camargo?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Camargo still has three more years of arbitration left on his contract, but it’s hard to see him earning much playing time in Atlanta. With Riley assuming the third base role, the infield looks to be set in stone for the foreseeable future, assuming the Braves extend Freddie Freeman.
Camargo can play the outfield, but there’s no room out there for him in the future, either. Ronald Acuña, Cristian Pache, and Drew Waters could all be in the majors at some point next season, and that’s assuming the team doesn’t add anybody else or re-sign a guy like Marcell Ozuna. The starting spots continue to fill up, and Camargo seems to have run out of chances.
Atlanta may be best off holding onto Camargo, hoping he can turn himself into a valuable utility piece in the future, considering his trade value has plummeted over the last two seasons. If he’s not willing to do that, it may be time for Alex Anthopoulos to part ways with him and take whatever he can get in return. There is no place for Camargo in the Braves’ future starting lineup as it stands.