Most Atlanta Braves fans are in love with Johan Camargo thanks to his breakout 2017 season, but he may be more valuable to the team now as a trade piece than as the “super-utility” player he’s expected to be.
At first glance, a rookie posting a .299/.331/.452 slash line in 256 plate appearances would seem like a surefire starter somewhere in the MLB following season, but the Atlanta Braves may be facing a sell-high situation with one Johan Camargo.
Fans may not like the idea, but this offseason is about doing what’s best for the team’s immediate future. Johan Camargo has the same trade value as a prospect ranked somewhere between 10th and 20th in the Atlanta Braves’ system.
Camargo’s Season in Review
Thanks to a hot stretch from June 10th through July 16th (29 G, 95 PA), Camargo’s overall season stats looked a bit better than they were. He slashed an impressive .360/.383/.528 with 10 doubles, four walks, and 18 strikeouts.
Outside of this stretch (53 G, 161 PA), Camargo batted just .263 with 11 doubles, eight walks, and 33 strikeouts. While this is still a respectable line, it’s clear that the meat of Camargo’s production came during the span of about a month.
Furthermore, when his splits are broken down, it’s clear that Johan Camargo’s season benefited greatly from his success against left-handed pitching. In his 76 plate appearances against lefties, Johan slashed .403/.434/.694 with 10 doubles and a .481 (!) BABip but slashed just .254/.287/.349 with 11 doubles and a much more realistic .316 BABip in 180 plate appearances versus right-handed pitching.
I’m no MLB statistical analyst, but a .481 BABip against lefties does not sound sustainable to me, and I don’t think I’m crazy to think so. With the majority of MLB pitching being right-handed, as well as a team’s ability to bring in a right-handed pitcher to face Camargo in late-game situations, he suddenly seems a bit less valuable to the Atlanta Braves.
2018 Projections for Camargo
Currently, Baseball Reference projects Johan Camargo to rack up 328 plate appearances, batting .283 with 22 doubles, two triples, and eight home runs over the course of the 2018 season. Personally, I think that’s a bit far-fetched for a guy who wasn’t ever much more than a flier prospect throughout his minor league career.
If Camargo stays true to favoring left-handed pitching in 2018, it may be difficult to get him 300-plus at-bats, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to repeat his impressive feats against lefties from 2017, in 2018.
Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson likely won’t play all 162 games in 2018, so there’s room for Camargo to get spot starts at second base and shortstop, but will Brian Snitker feel inclined to start him against right-handed pitching if his numbers don’t support doing so? Maybe not.
Earlier this offseason, the Atlanta Braves acquired former Dodgers’ utility man and Rome, Georgia native Charlie Culberson. Culberson has experience at third base, second base, shortstop, and left field, making him a valuable utility asset if he can. Culberson had a down year in 2017, but his up-and-down career trends suggest that he could have a bounce-back season in 2018.
The Braves also acquired former Astros outfielder Preston Tucker this offseason, who, though 467 MLB plate appearances, has tallied 27 doubles and 17 home runs. Tucker spent all of 2017 with the Astros’ triple-A Fresno Grizzlies, where he slashed an encouraging .250/.333/..465 with 24 home runs and 96 RBI.
To me, at least, the acquisitions of Culberson and Tucker make Johan Camargo more tradeable than he was beforehand. If Camargo is traded, the Atlanta Braves would still have viable bench options to cover multiple positions when the young guys need to rest.
Exploring Other Third Base Options
A few days ago, I highlighted the possibility of the Braves acquiring Javier Baez from the Chicago Cubs. Baez would be a better third base option than Camargo, as he’s found success against righties and lefties, and would be a bit more versatile than Johan.
Other third base options include free agent Todd Frazier, who could get pricey, and free agent Eduardo Núñez, who is cheaper than Frazier. The Braves could also craft trades for guys like Eugenio Suarez or Jedd Gyorko without completely breaking the farm.
Nonetheless, there are several third base options the Atlanta Braves could pursue outside of Johan Camargo, and if trading him away benefits the team enough, that may be the route taken. The only way to find out is to sit back and wait for Alex Anthopoulos to either craft a deal or put his faith in the 24-year-old.