By: Noah Wright
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Braves have utilized Johan Camargo at third base for most of the season, and he’s probably exceed expectations. After a solid rookie campaign, Camargo has developed some power that he didn’t really show in 2017. Coming into the final weeks of the season, Johan is batting .274/.354/.468 with 18 home runs, and 70 RBI’s. Plus he’s racked up 120 wRC+, a .353 wOBA, and a 3.3 WAR (according to baseball reference). On the defensive spectrum, he’s been pretty good at the hot corner with 5 DRS, 3.8 UZR, and worth .9 defensive WAR. If he entered the season as the starting third baseman, Camargo probably would have reached 20+ home runs by now. However, he’s kind of thrown a question mark in future hot corner plans. Top 3rd base prospect Austin Riley, 21, has been tearing it up through the minors. He’s currently batting .294/.360/.522 with 19 home runs and 70 RBI’s. He’s also been rated as a decent defender at third as well. With Riley’s rise, and Camargo’s breakout, this will lead the team to make a decision in the off season on what to do at the hot corner. Let’s look at some of the following things they could do to fix this.
One of the first things that I could see them doing is shopping Dansby Swanson around. Aside from 2016, Dansby has struggled with the bat in the majors. This season, he’s only batting .241/.301/.404 with 14 home runs, 58 RBI’s, and only worth 80 wRC+. However he may have just gotten unlucky, for he has a .293 BABIP. Though on the other side, Swanson is a top defensive shortstop. He’s been worth 10 DRS, 3.4 UZR, and 1.7 defensive WAR. His defensive prowess, him being 25 next year, and the fact that he was a former top 5 prospect still gives him some value. Plus Camargo can move to shortstop, making room for Austin Riley at third base.
Another move I could see them do with Swanson is moving him off of short. His defensive and athletic ability could make him a bit versatile and could be used as a SS/2B/3B defensive replacement. He may even be able to play a decent left field/center field, since he does have the speed to do so (29.5 feet per second). Swanson could also provide another clutch bat, along with Charlie Culberson, off the bench. This season, the young infielder has a .271/.392/.453 batting line with RISP, and .290/.369/.505 line with men on base.
The least likely thing that The Braves would probably do is trade Austin Riley, but it still be on the table of possibilities. A team looking to stock up on top prospects would definitely give up something decent for a guy like Riley. If The Braves do decide to go down this route, one team that they could try and shop him off to is The Tigers. In return, The Braves may even be able to get Michael Fulmer. Maybe if The Mets decide to go full rebuild, they could snag one of their decent starters if they’re willing to trade within the same division. Even though The Braves did just extend Tyler Flowers, catcher is probably one of their weaker positions, they do have more than enough prospects to trade for inter-league division rival catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Entering 2019, The Braves are going to have to do something with all the options they have at third. They could go multiple routes: trade Dansby Swanson and move Johan Camargo to short, make Swanson a super-utility man, or trade for an elite player by dealing elite third base prospect Austin Riley. I do think the most likely thing that they will do is make Dansby Swanson a utility guy. I don’t think The Braves would be willing to straight away give up on Swanson to the point on where they’d trade him, and I also don’t think The Braves would be too willing to trade Riley, even if he can bring back a decent piece. Making Swanson a utility guy and bat off the bench, and moving Camargo to short leaves Riley with less pressure since The Braves do have a solid back-up plan (moving Johan Camargo back to third base, and making Swanson the regular shortstop again), in the event that Riley struggles in his first big league stint.