BY KEVIN MCALPIN
680 THE FAN, NORTHPORT, FL – Every year as Spring Training opens up, inevitably there’s one player who proclaims to be in “the best shape of my life.” Now, while he hasn’t openly said it, Johan Camargo very well could be that guy in the Braves clubhouse during the course of camp. Shedding roughly 20 pounds over the last four months, followers of his on Instagram were taken into the gym on a daily basis this offseason to see all the hard work he was putting in. And now, he has just shy of six weeks to prove he deserves to be the guy at the hot corner for the Braves on Opening Day in Arizona.
Watching Johan take some early BP on the main field today, it’s clear he’s stronger and was putting on quite a power display from both sides of the plate. Partnered in a group that includes fellow third baseman (and outfielder) Austin Riley and veteran infielder Yonder Alonso, Camargo hit line drive after line drive and routinely found the concourse in right center field at CoolToday Park. This time last year, he had lost his job to Josh Donaldson and arrived at camp having sat out of Winter Ball. But here in 2020, he’ll compete with Austin Riley, who likely starts the season at Triple-A, for the starting job at third base.
We know Camargo can compete at this level. In 2017, he appeared in 82 games for the Braves, batting .299 with a .783 OPS before suffering a freak knee injury as he hopped over the first base line just prior to first pitch. He followed that up with a 2018 season that saw him belt a career-best 19 home runs in 134 games, posting an .806 OPS. But, playing time was sparse last season and he found himself demoted to Triple-A to get more regular at bats. This spring, Camargo has a golden opportunity to prove he’s the guy he was in 2017 and 2018 and earn his every day role back once again. The fact that the team never truly pursued Nolan Arenado or Kris Bryant over the offseason when they were reportedly available should give him an even added boost of confidence with games starting a week from tomorrow.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and @BravesRadioNet.