Johan Camargo has been a pleasant surprise since he was called up back in 2016. Originally touted for his spectacular defense, the native of Panama immediately showed he was no slouch with the wooden stick either. He batted to a tune of .299 over 82 games as a rookie, but it was his sophomore campaign that had many considering him as a long-term piece to a youthful Braves squad. Camargo helped take the offense to new heights slashing .272/.349/.457 with 19 homers, 27 doubles, and 76 RBIs – proving to be much more than a contact bat with elite defense. He was among the team’s most valuable players, and as a result, he lost his job.
When the Braves signed Josh Donaldson to a one-year deal worth $23 million, there was no disputing who was going to man the hot corner in 2019. The decision shifted to who was going to play shortstop. The highly touted hometown kid, Dansby Swanson, had yet to hit his stride and the lesser known Camargo was an All-Star caliber player in the second half of 2018. Rightfully; however, the Braves’ brass chose to stick with Swanson, who is making a case for his first All-Star appearance this year, leaving Camargo as the Braves super utility man.
On paper, having a powerful bat like Camargo off the bench that can also sub in and play any position is necessary for any contending ball club. The problem with that, and what we’ve seen so far from Camargo, is that not every player is meant for the bench role.
The Braves super utility man has been a black hole when asked to pinch hit. In 22 at-bats as a sub, Camargo has a measly two hits – good for a 0.98 batting average. He’s also started in 22 games, slashing .238/.281/.345. That’s far from ideal, but I don’t think anyone is arguing that Camargo cannot play. Some players need those everyday at-bats to get in a rhythm. Not everyone can be Charlie Culberson; which should make you take a step back and appreciate what Charlie Clutch brings to this team on a nightly basis. With over a third of the season in the rearview mirror, it might be time for a change of scenery for Atlanta’s utility man.
I’m not talking about a trade. We are not there yet, and Atlanta cannot afford to lose that type of depth. But it may be time for the front office to consider sending Camargo to Gwinnett to get some at-bats every day. Perhaps that could light a fire under him and his bat for that matter. The 25-year-old has all the talent in the world, and if the Braves are going to make a deep run at this thing like we all hope, they are going to need him to perform.
If the organization doesn’t want to send him to AAA, then they need to find ways to get him on the field more often. Give him some more spot starts for Nick Markakis and Ozzie Albies. It’s not like those guys are crushing it offensively at the moment. Start him over Donaldson or Swanson here and there.
Whatever the Braves’ brass decides; they must allow Camargo consistent at-bats to break out of this slump. Because if he only starts one game and gets a couple pinch-hit appearances a week, we might never see the same player we saw a year ago.