The Importance of the “Super Utility Player” For the Braves

FILE – Atlanta Braves’ Charlie Culberson reacts after hitting a walkoff two-run home run over the left field wall during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, June 3, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

The term “super utility” has been around for years, but as baseball continues to evolve as the years go on, versatility has become more and more important. Take Johan Camargo for example. Last season, Camargo appeared in 134 games for the Braves, posting a .272 average with 19 homers and 76 RBI. But this offseason, the club elected to go in a different direction at the hot corner, signing former AL MVP Josh Donaldson to the largest one-year pact in franchise history ($23 million). The signing caught a lot of fans by surprise, and begged the question, “why not Camargo?”

As was evident during Charlie Culberson’s break out 2018, versatility has become so vital in today’s game. Culberson played in seven of nine defensive positions, missing just center field and catcher. And this Spring, Culberson has brought a handful of different gloves with him to Orlando as he continues to prepare to play wherever the club may need him. And yes, that even includes on the mound. Culberson told me during Chop Fest that he’s offered to throw a couple bullpen sessions during the year to stay sharp, in the event the club needed him in a lopsided game.

But, back to Camargo, who Brian Snitker says will get looks at all four infield positions during Grapefruit League play, as well as some in the outfield as well. While Camargo isn’t your typical “every day player” he will likely get a handful of starts per week at varying defensive positions. It’s well documented that Freddie Freeman enters every season looking to play in all 162. Nick Markakis also accomplished the feat in 2018. But, don’t look for anything close to that from the 2019 squad, as the Front Office has already indicated they’ll pick and choose where to give guys a breather here and there. Will Camargo find himself in 134 games in 2019? That number likely takes a step backwards, but don’t expect it to be a drastic drop off. He’ll get plenty of playing time. And his versatility could give the Braves a dynamic in 2019 that wasn’t at their disposal at this time last year.

Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet

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