The Braves had a better third base setup than the vast majority of major league teams a year ago. Josh Donaldson, whom they signed to a one-year, $23MM contract heading into 2019, finished as one of the most valuable players at his position. In his first (and maybe only) season in the National League, the former AL MVP hit .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs and 4.9 fWAR in 659 plate appearances. His contributions helped the Braves to a 97-65 record and their second straight NL East title, but they’re now facing life without him as the new season nears.
Atlanta’s hope was to retain Donaldson after his productive 2019, but the club was unable to pull off the feat. The 34-year-old instead went back to the AL, where he had previously played with the Athletics, Blue Jays and Indians, on a four-year, $92MM contract with the Twins. Donaldson’s loss leaves a serious void in the Braves’ lineup, but they’re hoping to somewhat fill his offensive void with outfielder Marcell Ozuna, whom the club inked to a one-year, $18MM contract a few weeks back. But what of third base? Well, the Braves have a couple options there, though they’ll have a very hard time making anyone forget about Donaldson. Let’s explore who’s in the mix…
- Johan Camargo: An underrated producer in 2018, the switch-hitting Camargo posted 3.3 fWAR while seeing time at both positions along the left side of the Braves’ infield. The 2019 campaign didn’t make for much of an encore, though, as Camargo batted a miserable .233/.279/.384 with seven home runs and minus-0.5 fWAR in 248 plate appearances. Perhaps it wasn’t that surprising; after all, while Camargo registered good bottom-line results from 2017-18, his Statcast numbers lagged well behind in both years. He only put up a .282 expected weighted-on base average in ’19, which didn’t fall that far behind the .304 and .310 marks he recorded in the prior two seasons.
- Austin Riley: The 41st overall pick of the Braves in 2015, Riley earned his first major league promotion last May, at which point he was considered one of the absolute best prospects in the sport. Riley began with a flourish in the bigs, but his numbers trailed off significantly as the year progressed. The 22-year-old spent the majority of his season in left field and slashed .226/.279/.471 over 297 trips to the plate. Riley exhibited impressive power (18 homers. .245 ISO), but his strikeout and walk numbers left plenty to be desired. He fanned in 36.4 percent of plate appearances and drew free passes just 5.4 percent of the time. Both figures are going to have to improve if he’s going to turn into a viable major league regular.
The Braves continue to look like one of the most talented teams in the NL, but if Camargo and Riley fall flat this year, it could help lead to a fall in the standings. The Braves could still bolster their third base situation via trade, though, as they’ve been connected to the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado and the Cubs’ Kris Bryant in recent months. It doesn’t appear either star will wind up on the move before the season, but perhaps Atlanta will revisit acquiring them if the team’s not happy with its production at third during the first half of the season.
Time to take the gloves off Riley
Well you’ll probably want him to leave one glove on.
Time to trade for Arenado!
I wish they would just like you but the Braves don’t give out 100 million dollar contracts so I doubt they would take on the 200 million owed to arenado. But we can wish.
Freeman and Acuna both got $100m contracts.
But the fact of the matter is Arenado’s deal is all risk. He’s likely to opt out after 2021…and if he doesn’t, it’s because he can’t play outside of Coors field. That’s not a good player to target with blockbuster talent…especially when we’ve got players who could use a shot.
At least, for Christ’s sake, let Carmargo and Riley fail until the deadline before you ransom the future to put a famous question mark at third.
I guess I should have clarified by saying they don’t give out 100 mil to free agents or in trades. But either way give Riley it Camargo a shot and hope they perform.
Biggest deterrent for me is not being able to see what Riley is all about. He’s made adjustments through each league after slow starts, which AA continues to remind, and we need to see his ability to adjust on the pitchers to combine with that raw power.
If Arenado didn’t have that massive deal, if COL didn’t want a haul for him, if he didn’t have an opt-out coming up, if he didn’t play in a park with a long history of inflating offensive numbers — it would be a perfect fit.
Take Manny off my Padres hands
Riley just needs to make an adjustment to layoff breaking pitches that are down. After that, watch out!
Him and everyone else.
Yeah, definitely not true.
Just needs to ask Jobu for help, mayhaps get a hat for his bat.
Straight ball, I hit it very much.
Much easier said than done.
Acuna, Albies, Swanson ALL had the same issues that Riley is having – and they were able to adjust. Swanson had some injury issues (again) that made that transition appear murky after starting off 2019 with a bang. Not sure why Riley can’t do the same with the same hitting instructors and coaches, along getting help from Chipper.
Does he need to lay off high fastballs too?
I play ball for leagues here in Georgia. When a guy tosses an effective slider or sinker at me; it is so hard to lay off of them. I’m not a pro but I understand the conundrum.
I’m really hoping Riley takes a huge step forward. Guy doesn’t have to be a super star this year. Focus on getting on base. I mean honest. Hit 20-30 hr, bat .250-.260 for all I care.. but boost that obp.to closer to what u did in the minors and I’ll be happy…
So all you’re asking for is like an 850 ops?
#chesteraarthurthetroll. Look, he’s shown at least 20 hr type pop already at the worse, he’s gifted enough to bat .250 in the majors (which would be a regression from his minors #, and historically he does a good enough job getting on base in the minors. I expect a regression, sure, but not as drastic as he did in the show. Historically, it’s not uncommon for him to have a solid + 800 ops. Theoretically, a regression from his minor # would be about at an 800 ops. Based on how he performed last year, his obp is the most significant drop. If he can make the biggest difference in taking more pitches, he very well can go from an high ceiling prospect, to being an elite superstar.
No way I’m gonna take trash talk from a guy who doesn’t know the numerical value of each position player on the field. Anyone else, sure… but not an “fan” who doesn’t know the basics of baseball.
The Braves didn’t keep Donaldson because they tried to get him cheap, even after he earned every penny of the $23M. Maybe they strike gold twice, and Ozuna will give them an MVP-caliber season for $18M. Or maybe he’ll be Ozuna, and they finish behind the Nats, Mets, and maybe even Phillies in the East. We’ll see.
That.. ooooor maybe there was hesitation to give a 34 year old $100 million. I wanted to bring back Donaldson but I can also understand not wanting to take that kind of a chance.
LOL Twins can have him for that much
Ozuna could be useless and I still don’t see them finishing 4th unless a bunch of other stuff goes wrong, too.
You act as if Donaldson was a lynchpin of this team. He played, and played heathy, in the NLDS. It was missing other contributions that sunk the ship.
I miss JD
Was there really a need for this “article”? Exactly who visits this site didn’t already know all this???
I thought Clete Boyer was still trying to hold off a few scrubs for the job. I stand corrected.
Bart Harley Jarvis
I thought it was brother, Cloyd Boyer..
Just push past the articles that don’t interest you. No need to complain.
Donaldson is a tough act to follow. These guys could be great and still not duplicate the production and defense JD gave them last season.
Sure, or you could just construct your team a little differently, which is what they’re doing. Hopeful upgrades (always hopeful) to a healthy year from Swanson, subbing d’Arnaud in for McCann and resting Flowers more, more of Ozuna and less of Kakes, a healthy Inciarte and/or potential Pache/Waters call-up when ready. Combine that with a MUCH improved bullpen (don’t underestimate a steady Will Smith can have on the entire ‘pen no matter what IP he comes in) and more growth from the young staff – and hopefully eventual healthy IP from Hamels (not a full season, if he can give us 20 GS we should be good). Of course anything can/will happen (i.e. injuries, slumps, etc.) but the depth is there to be able to buy the necessary time for adjustments. And a last resort: we have the prospect capital to swing a trade or trades.
Be sweet if Riley did become a young Troy Glaus , be a huge boost. But with Jonah he did have a solid 2018 but I believe he was like 0 for 16 in the playoffs. I could see both Johan and inciarte out by mid season
Braves have extra pitching and Yankees should deal Andujar. Let’s make a deal
Andujar can not play defense. He is a DH. That doesn’t help the Braves.
Why would the Braves want a DH? They want a 3B
Donaldson will be injured again; especially in frigid Minnesota! I’m glad Donaldson left Atlanta. Time for Riley & Camargo to duke it out for the spot! Riley will do better this year!
Not one writer ever mentions that Camargo was very poorly utilized last season, not to mention the adjustment he was being asked to make to allow Donaldson to play every day. Not one. It’s stunning. Everyone gives you half the story on him.
Correct, he also only just made a drastic change to his approach come the 2017 off-season. This is when the Braves hitting instructors altered his bat path to try and improve his launch angle, similar to what they did for Pache a season ago.
Before that adjustment, Camargo was strictly a high contact, singles hitter. After that adjustment, Johan began to see alot more power come from his at bats.
Factor in that change, being only two offseasons ago, and then playing sporadically, and it isn’t as big of a surprise that Camargo struggled last season.
HOWEVER, what everyone forgets about Camargo, and Inciarte for that matter, is after both came back later on last season, they both had very productive runs offensively to end 2019..
They don’t mention it because benching someone in favor of a better player is not poor utilization.
As are you, my friend. You failed to mention that after hearing of the Donaldson signing, he came to camp overweight and out of shape last year.
It is very interesting how productive he was in a consistent, full-time role at 3B in 2018 and how different he was in ’19. Really speaks about the necessity of reps and consistency some players must have. I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar results for some others like Luke Jackson and Bryse Wilson once they finally figure a role out for them and stick to it – whether it’s on this team or another.
Donaldson now known as the bringer of snow is in the twilight of his career. Braves may not miss him as much as people are speculating
a 5 WAR season sure does not seem like the twilight…..
Prediction: Ozuna leads NL in RBI this season.
Prediction: HOU will have the highest team OBP this season (when factoring in batters plunked).
I wish Donaldson well, but the fact is that when all the chips were on the table last year, he sucked. One meaningless homer in the NLDS. 2019 was the best year he had left in him. His K rate is skyrocketing, which is a very bad sign for a 34 year old hitter. He’ll be playing almost 40 games against 2 of the worst pitching staffs in baseball this year, so that will help his numbers, but otherwise, he’s going downhill fast.
Dirty South In Da House
I’m a Donaldson fan and love having him with the Braves last year. That said, I’m glad they didn’t sign him because I think Camargo and Riley will be great once they get more playing time. Camargo was great in prior years because he was playing frequently. You can’t expect him to be great if you rarely let him play.
Dirty South In Da House
If they let Camargo play on a regular basis, he WILL be an All-Star!! Riley hasn’t proven himself yet, but I believe he’ll do big things as well if he’s allowed to play on a regular basis.
If you don’t expect an inexperienced kid to go through a cold streak during their first year or two of playing with experienced adults, then you don’t know anything about professional sports!!
Put Brian Snitker at third, see what happens