680 THE FAN – With now just 12 days and counting until the start of the regular season, one of the main areas of focus during Spring Training was how the third base job would play out. Both Austin Riley and Johan Camargo had strong
showings during their month in North Port and each were determined to make the decision a difficult one when it came to selecting the starting third baseman. While I maintained all along it was Camargo’s job to lose, in my opinion, the script has been flipped. Coming off a spring session that saw him strike out just five times in 32 trips to the plate, along with possessing light tower power, I’ll be shocked if Austin Riley isn’t at the hot corner on Opening Day when the Braves take on the Mets in Queens.
That’s not to say Johan Camargo is being demoted to a bench role by any means. With Freddie Freeman’s status still up in the air, we know Camargo has taken ground balls in the past at first base. He’s also versatile and able to play essentially anywhere in the infield as well as the corner outfield positions. Also, being a switch hitter is also something that increases his value, especially being without Nick Markakis and his left handed bat. Yes, Riley has also worked out over at first base as well, but I think the team would prefer to keep him at his natural third base, at least for now.
Regardless of what direction the team goes in, both young men should be commended on their dedication and work ethic this past offseason. Camargo would post daily videos to his Instagram account showing the hard work he was putting in, and his new and improved diet. Meanwhile, Riley worked hard with a swing coach to simplify his mechanics so he was ready to go for the start of camp. You’ll recall, at the time of his promotion, Riley was one of the hottest hitters on Earth. After homering in his MLB debut on May 15th, Riley went on to hit 16 of his 18 homers in his first 48 Big League games. Combine those absurd numbers with what he did prior to his promotion, Riley went deep 24 times in the first 60 games of his 2019 regular season (between Gwinnett & Atlanta) and that power potential will likely be far too much to resist when it comes to filling out a lineup card in a couple weeks.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.