Dansby Swanson went on the IL with a bruised heel on July 23rd. In the meantime, the Braves have used Johan Camargo, mostly, with a spattering of Charlie Culberson, too. With the time nearing for Swanson’s return, the Braves have a difficult choice on the horizon.
The problem that is arising for the Braves will be who to demote when Dansby Swanson returns from his injury. The options, as of today, are Johan Camargo, Austin Riley, and Adam Duvall. I think it’s fair to scratch Duvall from that list, even if he’s the most recent addition to the team. Since joining the team, Duvall has played 11 games, hitting 5 home runs and .326 in that time. That should be enough to keep Duvall up with the team for the rest of the season. That leaves Camargo and Riley.
Austin Riley has hit a rough patch as of late. Since setting the league on fire his first month, Riley has come back to earth, as any other young player would in his first experience as a Major League player. His playing time has been reduced drastically since Ender Inciarte returned from injury. Adam Duvall has cut in his innings, too. In his last 49 ABs, Riley has hit .184 with an OPS of .512. The long ball, the thing that made Riley a mainstay in the lineup, has dried up, too. Riley’s hit 1 HR and 2 doubles in his last 49 ABs.
Johan Camargo had a breakthrough last season. Camargo played so well that a lot of fans were questioning why the Braves would sign Josh Donaldson to play third base this season when Camargo was already on the roster. In limited time this season, Camargo has struggled. Since Swanson went down, Camargo has started 11 games. In that time, Camargo has hit .125 with an OPS of .439. Add in some questionable defense at shortstop, Camargo has looked lost on the field.
The good thing, if you choose to look at it this way, is Swanson is healing slowly. After last night’s win in Minnesota, the AJC reported that Brian Snitker can’t project when Swanson will return from injury. The heel bruise Swanson is dealing with is taking longer to heal than the Braves were expecting. This will provide the Braves with more time to make their decision regarding Camargo and Riley. And Camargo and Riley will have more time to build their case for staying with the team.
With all things considered, I believe Johan Camargo is who needs to go down when Dansby Swanson returns. Austin Riley has been bad, but Camargo has been just as bad, if not worse. Riley is a guy who can spell Duvall if he hits a rough patch. Charlie Culberson can take the role of backup shortstop and Riley can spell Donaldson at third if needed. Riley has shown off his versatility this season, even starting at first base on Sunday when Freddie Freeman needed a break.
Another factor is this has to be the bat. Riley provides a different type of potential that Johan Camargo is not capable of achieving. The power that Riley has far exceeds anything Camargo can even dream of. That’s just facts. Even with both players having abysmal times at the plate lately, Riley is the guy who can provide a big hit or home run late in the game coming off the bench. I would prefer to bat Matt Joyce or Charlie Culberson over Camargo at this point.
The Braves don’t have an easy choice on their hands. With time ticking down and Swanson healing up, the choice will be on the Braves sooner than later. Luckily, the Braves offense has still been rolling even with the lackluster performances from Camargo and Riley. Whoever gets demoted, most likely, will be returning as soon as the rosters expand at the end of the season. Whether it’s Riley or Camargo, I just hope they improve their bat in the minors. But if they don’t, it most likely won’t have a huge impact on the Braves.