A huge debate since the departure of Josh Donaldson has been brought up for Braves fans. Johan Camargo or Austin Riley at Third Base? I could go ahead and tell you based off 2019 stats alone Austin Riley should win the spot, but when you look at his drastic slump from July to September, you may consider Camargo a favorite, especially the way he played in September prior to a season-ending injury. To find out who we should expect to see starting we need to dig a little bit deeper.
2019… the year of hope and pride for the Atlanta Braves that started off with a slow March/April and then slowly found their groove in May. The Braves didn’t seem like division favorites until June 12. June 12th as many Braves fans remember was the day the Braves defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in an extra innings battle, and eventually prevailed with a walkoff RBI triple from Ozzie Albies. This day would spark another engine the Braves didn’t know they had, as they went on to win 97 games. Two nights after the miraculous win, the Braves completed a huge comeback against the Philadelphia Phillies, ending with a Brian McCann bloop single. All this was great, but what was even greater was the incredible streak of dominant games by Braves young 3B talent, Austin Riley. Riley had an incredible start, hitting a home run in his Major League debut, and was a key contributor in Atlanta’s late May success. He was still hitting incredibly well going into June, and was super productive during the Pirates and Phillies series that is featured above. But as time went on an increasing number of people scouted Austin, and found out the low slider is essentially impossible for him to lay off. So what did pitchers do? They threw the low slider. Over and over again, haunted by strikeouts, Riley found himself on the bench more often, and a pinch hitter for the rest of the year. Johan Camargo, however, did not have the same story. Camargo made his Major League debut for the Braves in 2017. 2017 was a forgettable year in terms of stats for Johan. 2018 he was productive, and showed promise, as he could flash the leather at third base, and he was getting consistent hits. Camargo in 2019 however did not look like his 2018 self. In 2019 Camargo was not better than Riley in Slash Line, RBI, HR, wRC+, xwOBA, WAR, UZR, or DRS. Camargo although ended up riding the bench the majority of the time with Riley. Johan Camargo is a good ballplayer, and he has shown he can be productive with playing time. But if you have him stuck on the bench, he will not be as productive. So for 2019, you could say Riley wins this case, but we should evaluate their adjustments for 2020, and how they performed in Spring Training.
2020 Spring Training
In 2020 Spring Training, the Braves were welcomed into a brand new facility in North Port, FL. This is the perfect time for Camargo and Riley to battle for the spot, and both players showed significant improvements from 2019. Let’s start with Austin Riley : Riley came into Spring Training after spending the majority of the offseason learning to read breaking pitches below the zone, and it showed that it paid off, as Riley absolutely raked in Spring Training, with a >.340 AVG, and a >1.000 OPS. He showed his bat was worth putting in the starting lineup. I also thought I should point out Riley hit a homerun that I would assume went 480+ feet in Spring Training. He has raw power and if he can keep it up after the quarantine, he should have a legit shot at the starting spot. Not all things are that easy though, as Camargo made huge improvements as well. Camargo came out of the 2019 season at 215 pounds. He put in loads of work to slim down his body, and become faster, and stronger. By Spring Training, he weighed 197 lbs. and hit plenty of long bombs as well. Also with great stats in Spring Training, he made sure his name will be in the conversation for starting 3B. There is one last thing I must mention before I let you come to a decision.
The battle for the 3B job should be evaluated by prior numbers and proven adjustments to weaknesses. Camargo, as we pointed out earlier, had an average rookie campaign in 2017, but was a surprise tool at 3B in 2018. He hit for contact but could hit one deep at all times. He flashed the leather as third as well. He put simply had a good year. When he was riding the bench in 2019 he wasn’t having those kinds of performances though. When he returned from an injury in September he was showing his 2018 self was not a fluke, until an unfortunate injury took him out of play for the rest of the season. Riley was an everyday LF that could play 3B when Donaldson needed rest. He was an everyday player from his debut until he slumped for a few weeks, and manager Brian Snitker decided to take him out and insert Joyce/Markakis.
We have discussed everything there is to discuss about Austin Riley and Johan Camargo. While you at home, or work, or the gym, or wherever you are, you may already have your mind made up, my question to you is, who deserves to have the 3B spot for the Atlanta Braves? To me, Camargo should get the start at the spot, but I do suggest this : Riley has a good glove in the outfield too. With a huge question mark in RF for the Braves, there are players to fill that role such as Nick Markakis, Adam Duvall, Charlie Culberson, and Rafael Ortega. What I would like to see is Riley inserted into RF, and set the lineup something like this : Acuña Jr (CF), Albies (2B), Freeman (1B), Ozuna (LF), Riley (RF), Camargo (3B), Swanson (SS), d’Arnaud (C), Pitcher. This is my opinion on the Atlanta Braves’ 3B Spot, and I would live to hear your opinion – TC