Braves Infield Uncertainty May Settle after Johan Camargo Injury

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ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 6: Johan Camargo #17 of the Atlanta Braves throws out a seventh inning hitter of the Miami Marlins at SunTrust Park on August 6, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

A Johan Camargo injury may settle some of the uncertainty around the Atlanta Braves infield alignment for the remainder of the season.

Camargo suffered a seemingly freak injury to his knee or leg Tuesday night as he took the field for the top of the first inning in the Braves’ home game against the Philadelphia Phillies. He was replaced at shortstop by Braves utility player, Jace Peterson, for the start of the game.

 

For now, the Braves and beat media are reporting that Camargo has a hyperextended right knee and will undergo an MRI this evening, but any lengthy injury would be a devastating turn for a player who has been a revelation at the plate and affirmed his value as one of the organization’s best defensive assets.

Braves Infield Uncertainty May Settle after Johan Camargo Injury

Coming into Monday night’s game, Camargo was batting .292 with three home runs and 19 RBI and had only committed two errors in 155 chances at second base, shortstop, and third base (he has played outfield as well but not received any fielding chances there).

The Braves are not realistically playing for playoff positioning at this point, sitting 15 games back in the NL East behind Washington and 11.5 games back of the NL’s second Wild Card slot with five teams to catch. The team’s focus is on maximizing the development of young talent and getting returns from movable assets while they still have value.

A serious injury to Camargo could put a pin in the Braves’ attempts to trade any of their infield assets, including Brandon Phillips, a pending free agent who is slotted as Atlanta’s primary third baseman for the remainder of the season after converting from second base.

Should the 36-year-old Phillips be dealt, Camargo was projected as a possible replacement at third base, having played the position in nearly half his appearances this season. Injuries on offense, most notably to slugging left-fielder Matt Kemp, have returned Freddie Freeman to his normal position at first base and Matt Adams – who has dealt with head issues himself in recent weeks – to the outfield. Adonis Garcia, who was the Braves’ Opening Day third baseman, is not close to return from his own injury.

Braves beat reporters noted that shortstop prospect Dansby Swansoncurrently on a minor league assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett to resolve his season-long struggles – was pulled from the Gwinnett Braves’ game against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders after Camargo sustained his injury.

Swanson is the logical replacement for Camargo as the Braves’ starting shortstop if manager Brian Snitker and team management are comfortable putting him back in position to receive everyday Major League at-bats.

Swanson’s return would finally pair him with fellow heralded prospect Ozzie Albies at the Major League level. Since Swanson was sent down to Gwinnett, Albies has been called up and assumed the role of starting second baseman. He and Swanson both primarily played shortstop, though the Braves have shifted Albies to second base for much of the last couple seasons with designs on having both players together in the middle of the infield.

Though the July 31 trading deadline has passed, teams can still move players to other teams if they clear waivers or a deal is completed with a team claiming a player. If the Braves were to complete a major transaction to acquire a big-name talent, Albies or even Swanson could still be included in an outgoing package of players.

Given the current league standings and the unlikelihood that a team would waive the type of controllable young talent Atlanta is seeking for future seasons, it is more probable that Swanson would join Albies back in the big leagues until Camargo is healthy.

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