Now that the Braves have a new GM and MLB has handed down the punishment for John Coppolella’s and John Hart’s international spending scandal, it feels like we can finally shift our focus to the offseason. Here is part two of our offseason questions series:
Since the start of 2014 -- four full seasons, 3100+ plate appearances -- third basemen for the Braves have a combined 3.4 WAR and hit .258/.301/.385.
Those numbers are unfathomably bad. And unless a major move is made this offseason, the Braves will likely see similar production next summer.
As the roster stands now, Johan Camargo, Adonis Garcia and Rio Ruiz are the three candidates to get playing time at third.
We all know what Garcia can do, which isn’t much. He seems like a candidate to be non-tendered or thrown into a trade this winter to clear a roster spot.
Ruiz, 23, struggled while getting his first taste of the big leagues (56 wRC+, -0.1 WAR in 53 games), though he did flash occasional power. He held his own defensively. And he’s still young enough where he could improve his game.
Camargo, 24, was a pleasant surprise as he hit .344 with a 134 wRC+ over six weeks in June and July, though most of that was fueled by a ridiculous batting average on balls in play (.419). He came crashing back to earth after the All-Star break, though — 88 wRC+, .327 BABIP — and suffered a freak injury that kept him out for a month. Thankfully the injury wasn’t worse than what many anticipated it was.
Even if you’re a big believer in Camargo or Ruiz, it’s safe to say neither are realistic options for 150 starts at third base. A platoon would make some sense given Ruiz’s minor league splits, but even then I’m not sure how productive it would be.
This brings us to Austin Riley, who many are split on. In his age-20 season, he hit decently in High-A Florida before a surprising promotion to Double-A. He crushed the ball in Mississippi (.315/.389/.511) in a cavernous park before performing well in the Arizona Fall League. Some writers, like ESPN’s Keith Law, don’t like his bat and say he can’t get around on fastballs. Others, like Baseball America, wrote this a few weeks ago:
Riley has embraced the Braves' focus on improving his nutritional habits. He appears slimmer, stronger and quicker than he was when drafted. He also has shortened his swing and improved his bat speed, helping him to more consistently get to his plus power potential and alleviating concerns about his now average hit tool. Riley's biggest improvement has come defensively. He has alleviated fears he would need to move to first base and is now an above-average third baseman. His plus-plus arm is still his calling card, but he also improved his first-step quickness.
If you believe in Riley as the club's future third baseman, a stop-gap option for 2018 makes sense. That could be a Ruiz-Camargo platoon. It could also be an outside option brought in via trade or free agency.
If you don’t believe in Riley, it’s pretty obvious an addition needs to be made. I’ll leave it to you guys to suggest some options, with the most obvious one being the current All-Star in Toronto given his ties to Alex Anthopoulos.
We should know the new GM’s feelings about Riley one way or another in the coming months.