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Inbox: Could Camargo play LF in 2019?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman fields fans' questions
January 17, 2019

Do you think the Braves will use Johan Camargo in left field if they can't find a deal to their liking? -- @BayAreaBrave Looking back on last year's National League East race, you can't discount the fact that while the Braves ranked fourth in the Majors with 59 Defensive Runs

Do you think the Braves will use Johan Camargo in left field if they can't find a deal to their liking?
-- @BayAreaBrave

Looking back on last year's National League East race, you can't discount the fact that while the Braves ranked fourth in the Majors with 59 Defensive Runs Saved, the Nationals (25th with -55 DRS), Mets (27th with -77 DRS) and Phillies (30th with -146 DRS) fielded some of the game's worst defenses. Now in exchange for placing an MVP-caliber bat (Josh Donaldson), Atlanta's best defensive infielder (Camargo) will not be used on an everyday basis.
For the record, a much wiser man named Ron Washington makes sure to remind me of Dansby Swanson whenever I refer to Camargo as the organization's best infielder. Regardless, as the Braves plan to utilize Camargo in a super-utility role, it must be remembered how valuable his bat was last year.
Braves Weighted Runs Created Plus from May 20 (Camargo's first day as the everyday third baseman) through the end of 2018
1. Ronald Acuna Jr., 151
2. Freddie Freeman, 127
3. Johan Camargo, 117
4. Nick Markakis, 100
5. Tyler Flowers, 91
6. Ender Inciarte, 90
7. Ozzie Albies, 86

  1. Swanson, 76
    Camargo produced similar splits, generating an .803 OPS from the left side of the plate and an .813 OPS from the right side. This sets up the possibility for him to see time at each of the infield positions. But if an outfielder is not acquired, there's certainly reason to utilize him in left field on more than an occasional basis.
    :: Submit a question to the Braves Inbox ::
    Is Craig Kimbrel still a possibility for the Braves?
    -- @Liam Filipowski

    As we get closer to Spring Training, there's now at least more reason to think Kimbrel's market might drop to the point where it's more feasible to think about a reunion. The Braves would likely not offer more than three years, but the financial component (likely above $16 million per season) could still prove to be a deterrent.
    Atlanta has the financial resources necessary to afford Kimbrel next season. But if the Braves were to commit $16 million to $18 million to him, they would limit their flexibility to address their greater needs to add an outfielder or enhance the rotation.
    If we reach the point where Atlanta would be adding an outfielder or a starting pitcher just to plug a hole, then it would certainly make more sense to use the available funds to gain the value of adding one of the game's top closers. But for now, it seems like the focus remains on the outfield and the rotation.
    Hot Stove Tracker
    Are the Braves interested in Adam Jones as a possible outfield fit?
    -- @Cantstopchoppin

    Jones has expressed interest in playing for Atlanta. But the Braves have not pursued the veteran outfielder, who ranked 63rd among qualified outfielders with the 4.3 fWAR (Fangraphs' WAR Model) he produced from 2016-18. The 0.5 fWAR he produced last year ranked 52nd out of 56 qualified outfielders.
    Taking a chance on trading for Nicholas Castellanos' defensive shortcomings seems to be a better option than pursuing Jones or Carlos Gonzalez, whose value was diminished by his 2018 numbers outside of Coors Field. If the Braves are going to sign a free-agent outfielder, Markakis seems to be the most likely option.

Why do the Braves seem to be holding onto all of their pitching prospects rather than "blowing another team away" with a trade offer to fill the outfield void or get an ace? There's not enough room in the rotation for all these young guys.
-- @ElderLD

There's plenty of room as long as they all still have options, allowing for the possibility for them to be shuttled between the Atlanta and Triple-A Gwinnett rosters. The greater concern comes from the reality that inevitably a few of these highly regarded prospects will eventually diminish in value.
If you were to deal Luiz Gohara or Kolby Allard right now, you wouldn't get the same value you would have via a trade involving them at this point last year. With that being said, Allard still has time to physically mature and a better conditioned Gohara could quickly restore his value this year.
Yes, the Braves have an abundance of riches with seven pitchers listed among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects. And yes, it might make sense to use two of those assets to gain three years of Corey Kluber or include one in a package used to acquire two years of J.T. Realmuto. But so far, the right deal has not materialized for general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who has never shied away from making significant trades.
Anthopoulos also has to remain cognizant of the fact that until Sean Newcomb proves himself, there is uncertainty beyond Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman in Atlanta's potential rotation for 2020. Waiting another season to determine which of these prospects should be considered long-term fits could prove costly as some could lose value this year. But preserving much of this depth could prove quite valuable beyond the upcoming season.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.