The abrupt ending of the Grapefruit League season and the postponement of Opening Day due to the coronavirus outbreak may answer one of the pertinent questions for the Atlanta Braves in terms of their rotation. However, one question remains and that is which direction will they go in regards to third base? Both Austin Riley and Johan Camargo had good showings in the abbreviated spring. Both bring their own unique skill sets to the table but who will the Braves ultimately go with on Opening Day? That was the subject of our first post-spring roundtable.
What are your thoughts on the third base competition? Who do you think will get the job on Opening Day?
Scott Coleman - I’ve gone back and forth on this all spring. If I had to choose today, I’d lean towards giving Camargo the starting 3B job, allowing Riley to play every day in Gwinnett and take it week-by-week. Riley’s presence on the big league roster feels redundant by Adam Duvall. I’d rather have Riley — still just 22 years old, mind you — play every day in the minors and continue improving his approach and pitch recognition than giving him a couple starts each week in Atlanta. But if you told me Riley deserves first crack at the 3B job, I wouldn’t argue with you too much.
Eric Cole - I have maintained for a while that the roster, in a vacuum, is probably at its best with Riley at 3rd base and Camargo as a utility guy that gets a lot of at-bats. However, Snitker did everything but quash that as a possibility. I think the thing that makes the most sense given that is to give Camargo the keys to third base and let Riley prove that his impressive performance this spring is sticking. If he rakes in Triple-A, then the Braves can bring him up and make a decision on Camargo after that (whether that be send him to the bench as said utility guy whether he likes it or not, send him to the minors, or whatever).
Garrett Spain - It’s a very close call here for me, but I tend towards going with Johan Camargo for a few reasons. Camargo has more major league experience which immediately gives a leg up, and outside of last season where he spent a large portion playing a bench role and wasn’t in great shape, he has been a more consistent player and overall a better one. For the future, I think Riley is the better player because of a higher overall offensive potential, but until he fixes the holes in his approach and his swing it would be safer to go with Camargo and give Riley at bats in Triple-A. I’ve said in the past that it’s hard to expect a prospect to be worth more than a 3 WAR player, and that’s what Camargo has been on average through his career when he gets consistent playing time.
Demetrius Bell - As of right now, Johan Camargo should probably be the starter on Opening Day. To be honest, if we knew exactly what type of player Austin Riley was, I’d suggest that the Braves would keep both of them on the roster and form a platoon, with Carmago leading the way in terms of playing time until Riley can establish himself as a consistent major league hitter. However, I tend to agree with the points the other guys have made — for some reason or another, Snitker is not going to go with a platoon and if that’s not going to happen then we can’t seriously entertain the idea. But yeah, Camargo has shown that he’s better if he can play consistently and Riley could still benefit from getting some time in Triple-A while any of the other guys who would be going down as a result of the end of the third base competition would honestly be wasting time in Triple-A at this point. Adam Duvall already proved this after the season he had in Gwinnett and Johan Camargo also showed that he’s clearly above that. Riley isn’t, so I wouldn’t be mad if he started the season in Triple-A and eventually smashes his way out of the minors.
Ivan - I don’t know that there’s anything we can really infer from what’s happened so far in 2020 that suggests giving the job to either Austin Riley or Johan Camargo over the other. Camargo may have a higher defensive floor, but the real crux is for both of them to fix the issues that tanked their 2019s offensively. Camargo needs to stop swinging at everything, a trait that went from tolerable to abhorrent for him when he collapsed. Riley had a host of offensive issues, some of which can be lived with, and others (not punishing fastballs) that are deadly. My thought is mostly that the only way to know who really “should” get the job depends on how well each of those guys have addressed their flaws, and I have no secret knowledge on that front. If I had to pick just one guy, I’d pick Camargo because of the aforementioned defensive floor, but honestly, carry them both on the roster, use them to suit their strengths and weaknesses, and go from there.
Wayne Cavadi - I kind of laid it out in my article the other day why I am Team Riley. That said, however, I think a lot depends on when baseball actually starts. I’d be ok with the more defensively reliable Camargo at third if we are talking a two-month season.
Matt Powers - I think Riley is the ideal 3B in a perfect world. He’s got more power and more upside, while Camargo offers far more value off the bench as a super utility guy than the bench value of Riley’s bat. Of course it feels like Riley has the bigger downside, but after Camargo’s lost 2019 season I’m not sure about that being a huge factor. Going into the spring I personally pencilled Riley in for these reasons — but then Camargo showed up a different person this spring. Sure Riley has the better stats in the spring, but short sample size and it came against a wide variety of opponent quality, but it just feels like Camargo has a lead. That may not last long and a few weeks in Riley can earn the job, but as of now it feels like Camargo is the guy.
Daniel H-K - Riley has looked very promising this spring, and is still the long-term third-baseman in Atlanta. That being said, Camargo has been solid and will probably be given the job as the safe option to man the hot corner while Riley gets some more at-bats in Gwinnett. I do expect to see Riley take over after a month or two, however.
AB - This felt like Austin Riley’s job to lose. I don’t think he has. Both Camargo and Riley have played well this spring. The problem with Camargo is I don’t think he can hit well enough to stick at third base. He would be good and second base, but the Braves are set there. I hope they employ him not as a bench player, but as a super-utility.
Cory McCartney - Really, neither has disappointed at the plate this spring, and it’s been a pleasant surprise to see Riley and his 36.4 percent strikeout rate last season having fanned five just times in 33 plate appearances, while also drawing four walks. But with the addition of Marcell Ozuna taking the pressure off the power production, the belief here is the Braves go with Camargo. He has proven more over longer stints at the plate and in 2018, the last time get got an actual chance at third on an everyday basis, he had the second-most DRS in the NL at the position and was seventh overall with 7.1 Defensive Runs Above Average. Both will get their opportunity to contribute this season, but the Opening Day nod should go to Camargo.
Kris Willis - When the spring began I figured it was inevitable that Camargo would be the Opening Day third baseman while Riley began the season at Triple-A. I know we shouldn’t read too much into spring numbers but my feeling was that the Braves were always going to give Riley a shot at some point in 2020 to show whether or not he can be the team’s answer at third base going forward. With a shortened season on the horizon, Atlanta may be hard pressed to deploy their best roster from the outset for what will likely be an all out sprint to secure a spot in the postseason. Their best option would be Riley at third base and Camargo on the bench.
Anthony Traurig - Ideally, Riley and Camargo would both be on the roster and getting starts by sharing at time at third base and spelling others in the outfield. If Camargo could improve defensively at shortstop, he could get a few starts there, and Riley could give Freddie a break at first base every now and then. However, Snitker hasn’t displayed any aptitude or inclination to do this. So realistically, I think Camargo will start the season as the starting third baseman, and the Braves will see if Riley can force their hand again this season by crushing Triple-A pitching. This wouldn’t be my first choice of how to handle it, but Riley could benefit from refining his approach in the minors.