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The Atlanta Braves had plenty of need-to-know prospects entering the season, headlined by justly-praised Ronald Acuna Jr. Respected prospect writer Keith Law ranks the Top 10 farmhands for every team, and a Top 100 overall. Every player on Atlanta’s 2018 list made his overall Top 100, the first time that’s happened in Law’s decade or so doing this exercise.
So the future looks bright for the Braves, and so does the present. And yet somehow, the non-rated Johan Camargo is crashing the party.
Camargo understandably didn’t make Law’s list, and he was an also-ran when Fangraphs writer Eric Longenhagen reviewed the Atlanta organization early in 2017. Camargo, then 23, didn’t make the Top 32 in the system, but did get his own graph of analysis.
Johan Camargo, INF, o.7 KATOH+- A switch-hitting Panamanian infielder, Camargo will flash impressive leatherwork, but he lacks the range for shortstop and the bat to play anywhere else. His feel for hitting and lack of balance at the plate are both non-starters for any sort of offensive output, but he’s a plus defender at third and has started to see reps at second base. He could have Abraham Nunez’ career.
I’m not here to knock anyone, because prospect writing is ridiculously hard. But it looks like Camargo will easily clear the low hurdle of the Nunez standard. Nunez’s best offensive season was an 85 OPS+ in 2005 (100 is average). Meanwhile, Camargo, at age 24, has turned into a surprising asset for the Braves.
Camargo has played second, third, and shortstop for Atlanta this year, collecting 203 at-bats. He’s been surprisingly useful with the bat, a .256/.359/.453 slash with nine homers. The 41 strikeouts are pesky, but he’s also walked 31 times. He grades as a plus defender.
The BABIP is just .279, despite a 41.7 percent hard-hit rate; if anything, Camargo has been unlucky on balls in play. His OPS+ checks in at 121, clearly an offensive asset.
Camargo’s splits make him playable in most situations. A switch-hitter, he has an .803 OPS against righties and an .825 number against lefties. He’s hit for average at home and for better power on the road, but the OPS grades come out almost equal (one-point bump on the road). The Braves have a versatile, useful piece here.
The lack of a pedigree — and perhaps the lack of any knockout fantasy stat — have Camargo an afterthought in the fantasy community. He still trades at a modest 22 percent. I love to make room for these types of players, a Swiss-Army knife who helps immensely on those short-roster days. See if you can add Camargo for one of the lesser names on your bench.