Coming into the season, the Braves were struggling to find enough position players to fill a roster. That made the former #1 pick and the centerpiece of the Shelby Miller trade, Dansby Swanson, an obvious choice to begin the season as the team’s starting shortstop. Playoff aspirations were low and the anxiousness to see the hometown kid start in the new ballpark was astronomical.
Swanson played less than a season’s worth of games before being promoted to the major league squad at the end of last year. He hit .302 with 3 homers and 17 RBIs in 38 games with the Braves last season. However, hot starts for young players can be temporary, and the true value of a player comes when adversity strikes.
That is what Swanson went through early on in the season, hitting .156 in the month of April. Given the Braves’ situation at the time, letting the youngster battle through some adversity was the least of their worries. And battle he did. After another rough month in May, Swanson had a terrific month of June, hitting .306 with 2 homers and 15 RBIs.
But that success looks to have been short-lived, as the Vanderbilt product is hitting just .130 so far this month. And while the roster in April looked sad, the roster today is loaded with talent, and the team is trying to claw itself back into the picture for a Wild Card Spot.
Not to mention there is a new emerging young star who is just getting his feet wet in the majors. Johan Camargo has been outstanding his first 40 major league games this season. The 23-year old from Panama is the top-rated fielder among all the Braves’ prospects, and at first glance, he is already best infielder on the major league team.
But what has surprised most has been his bat. Camargo is hitting .327 with a lone homer and 14 RBIs, and he is red hot right now, hitting .427 with 5 doubles and a home-run to start of July. He and Dansby Swanson are on opposite ends of the spectrum, and it might be time give Johan Camargo the starting shortstop spot, at least for now.
It is very clear at this moment Camargo is the more MLB-ready of the two. While Camargo’s defense has been phenomenal, Swanson’s has been poor for the entire season, as he leads the National league in errors. Beyond that, Swanson has still yet to figure out how to hit right-handed pitching. In 253 at bats against righties this season, he is only hitting .206. Camargo on the other hand is a switch hitter that has shown promise from both sides of the plate. He is an incredible .464 versus lefties and a respectable .276 against righties.
With the team as hot and confident as ever, an eight game hole in the Wild Card does not seem like too much of an obstacle to overcome. It will be highly dependent on the stretch of tough opponents the Braves face returning from the All-Star break, and as long as the Braves are trying to remain competitive, Johan Camargo should be their starting shortstop.
It was just a handful of years ago that Braves fans thought Tyler Pastornicky was the future at shortstop. However, it was the dark horse, Andrelton Simmons, who ended up becoming an All-Star.
This could just be a case of Camargo starting out hot as rookie as well. He could eventually cool off and find himself back down in AAA. But right now, he gives the Braves the best chance to win.
What the Braves do with Swanson is a totally different story. They could opt to platoon the two, like they have been recently, giving Camargo spot starts at several different positions while still allowing Swanson to play on most nights. Or they could opt to send Swanson back to AAA, which a lot of people might scoff at, but could be the best thing for him right now.
Swanson has a winning attitude, and while a trip back to Gwinnett might not be what he wants to hear, there is no way he would let it affect the way he approaches the game. At AAA, Swanson can strictly focus on some of the areas he has struggled on while also regaining some much needed confidence. You could make the argument that perhaps the Braves rushed Dansby too quickly to the big leagues. If all went well, Swanson would be back with the Braves in no time.
There are a lot of moving parts to this situation, including the fact that the Braves could very well find them well out of contention in just a couple of weeks. However, this team is starting to believe in themselves now, and Camargo is the guy who needs to be starting at shortstop.