The Braves are in a spot they have not been in in years. Not only do they have a playoff-caliber roster, but it is also reported that they may have about $60 million to spend. The Braves have a few holes to address. They could use a new outfielder, an upgrade at catcher, some bullpen help, and potentially a number 1 pitcher if the price is right. However, there is one spot the Braves must wait to address, and that is third base. There is absolutely no need to allocate dollars to that position.
Johan Camargo came into his own this season, rewarding the Braves with great performance after cutting Jose Bautista and giving him the everyday job. He ended up being one of the more exciting young players in baseball. He hit 19 homers and 76 RBI to go with an .806 OPS. He also has a cannon defensively and offered the team a lot of versatility in 2017.
Unfortunately, things have not gone as planned for Dansby Swanson. It is far too early to give up on him, but not too early to worry. He provides solid defensive shortstop play, but he has come up short of a .700 OPS the last two years, and that simply will not cut it. Dansby Swanson enters a make or break year, and could ultimately end up being replaced by Camargo at short. Here’s why:
Austin Riley had some hiccups health-wise this year, but he is a great prospect and could be the power bat that the Braves lineup really needs behind Freddie Freeman. Between the injuries and taking time to acclimate to AAA, Riley did not get the September call-up many fans were hoping for. However, he had 19 homers and 70 RBI in 108 games between AA, AAA and some rehab ball in the Gulf Coast League.
Riley is really the only difference-making bat near the bigs, and the team knows this. By midseason, they should have three options to roll with on the left side of the infield. Perhaps the Braves will try to move Riley’s position, but it not far-fetched to think that Swanson and Camargo could be competing for the starting shortstop position in the first half of the year. One could ultimately end up dealt or deployed as a bench player. Adding one of the two to the bench alongside Charlie Culberson makes the Braves a much, much deeper versatile team.
It is a good problem to have, but one thing is for sure: When Austin Riley is ready, his bat will get him in the lineup.