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2021 Braves Player Review: Johan Camargo

Johan Camargo has clearly fallen out of favor with the Braves over the last couple of seasons

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2018, Johan Camargo put together a season that had some thinking that he was going to be a key part of the Atlanta Braves roster for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, that is not what came to pass as we all saw his production drop off tremendously and his playing time over the next three seasons diminish to the point where he seems like a prime candidate to get non-tendered.

How Acquired

The Braves brought Johan Camargo into the organization as an international free agent out of Panama for $42,000 back in 2011, when he was 16. He performed reasonably well down in the minors for the next several seasons, but his path to the major leagues was complicated by the presence of Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies, who far outranked him in prospect-land. Camargo was added to the 40-man roster at the end of 2016 and made his major league debut in April 2017.

Expectations/Projections

The expectations for Johan Camargo for the 2021 season were, well, pretty muted, given that it was clear that he was going to struggle to get plate appearances. Austin Riley, even with his struggles before the 2021 season, seemed like a better option than him at third base, while Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman were entrenched at their positions in the infield. There was a decent chance that Camargo could carve out a bench role, but that still didn’t seem to be a path to much playing time, given the Braves’ commitment to sticking with their starters. It didn’t help matters over the last couple of seasons, Camargo did very little to regain the Braves’ confidence in his abilities at the plate and in the field — he combined for -0.7 fWAR in 375 PAs over the past two seasons since his 2018 breakout.

Camargo got the fifth-most PAs out of any Brave in Spring Training, and did terribly, losing a bench spot to Ehire Adrianza in the process.

The ZiPS projections for Camargo in 2021 were significantly more bullish — ZiPS projected Camargo to slash .245/.299/.419 during the 2021 season, likely buoyed by his strong 2018 numbers... but he didn’t hit anywhere near that, either.

2021 Season Results

2021 Season Stats - Johan Camargo: .000/.111/.000 in 18 PA

With Austin Riley having his coming out party and the rest of the infield playing well, there were no opportunities for steady plate appearances for Camargo and he ended up making just 18 plate appearances at the major league level. He actually had a pretty decent minor league season in Gwinnett with a .958 OPS, but he has clearly lost the confidence of the Braves to be even a useful bench piece. When they really needed guys to fill out their roster as the injuries piled up, guys like Abraham Almonte, Orlando Arcia, Guillermo Heredia, etc. got opportunities whereas Camargo did not. In short, his impact on the 2021 season for the Braves was extremely minimal and what impact he did have... well, was not good as he failed to record a hit in his 18 plate appearances, though he did draw a couple of walks.

Road to the Title

It is worth noting that the Braves did have him around in the playoffs and he did make four plate appearances during their postseason run. This was likely due to the need for additional pinch-hitters with the Braves employing their bullpen as much as they were. Predictably, those plate appearances did not go well, as all four at-bats he made in the NLCS against the Dodgers resulted in outs including a pair of strikeouts.

As a result, there’s almost nothing positive to say about Camargo’s WPA or cWPA for the season. His biggest impact in this regard was drawing a two-out, ninth-inning walk in a tie game in the fourth game of the season, but Ronald Acuña Jr. grounded out and the Braves ended up starting their season 0-4.

Outlook for 2022

There is a chance that Johan Camargo is a Brave next season, but the odds do not look great. He failed to carve out a bench role when bench players were sorely needed and with the Designated Hitter likely to return to the National League next season, the need for a switch-hitter that hasn’t hit in three years is going to be at an all-time low. Camargo is projected to get $1.4 million in arbitration this go-around and with the Braves having other areas to focus their money on (please re-sign Freddie Freeman), he seems like a clear candidate for a non-tender. There is a chance that they just don’t see another viable candidate out there to be the backup infielder on the roster, but as of now... that seems unlikely and it seems more likely that he will be looking for a Spring Training invite from another organization in 2022. Camargo does have one option remaining, which makes him marginally more appealing than someone like Orlando Arcia, who does not... but Arcia at least has a few things to dream on at this point that are more recent than 2018.

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