Winning is addicting and lately, the Braves have been doing a lot of it. Their bats are hot, bases are loaded and pitching is on point. With so much success and excitement surrounding how the Braves have been playing lately, there is a dilemma on the horizon. When Ryan Flaherty came on the scene right before the season started, most people didn’t know all that much about him and the type of performance he would bring to the field. The only thing that was emphasized was that he was Nick Markakis’ brother-in-law. On opening day, there wasn’t much that was expected of Flaherty during his time at third base, except to fill in until Johan Camargo could make his way back from the DL. Flaherty surprised us all and has really given Camargo a run for his money over the last few games. He has made a statement about how well he can play with this team. He knows how to get on base and over the course of his first two series with the Braves he got on base a lot.
When spring training began Braves fandom thought that Camargo would be awarded the third base bag. He did ok in spring training, but he didn’t have as much playing time this spring because of his back injury halfway through March.
With talks of Camargo coming off the DL in the next couple of days, I have a few simple thoughts on what is to come at third base. Flaherty has been great at the plate and he hasn’t been that bad defensively either. If we are strictly speaking about how well they have done at the plate, here is how they match up based on their first 5 games as a Brave and how well they did overall in their 2017 seasons:
In Ryan Flaherty’s first 5 games with the Braves, he had a .545 on-base percentage in 19 at-bats. In those 19 at bats he only stuck out 5 times and was walked twice. Flaherty’s bat has definitely been an unexpected bonus for the Braves while Camargo has been on the DL. His bat may have been bad in the past, but something has awakened in Flaherty.
For the 2017 season, Flaherty only played 23 games, with 38 at-bats with a .302 on-base percentage, his best season with Baltimore. One thing is for sure is that Flaherty is great defensively and can play nearly every infield position. He’s an all-around good player and based on what we have seen this season thus far, he’s been pretty reliable.
When Johan Camargo played in his first 5 games as a Braves he had a .250 on-base percentage in 4 at-bats. Camargo stuck out 3 times in 4 of those at-bats. Also, it’s important to note that he did not continuously play two full series like Flaherty has, but he was used across random games in three different series to start the season.
In 2017, Camargo played in 82 total games with 241 at-bats with a .331 on-base percentage. Camargo did play more games last year, but Flaherty has had more experience in the majors overall. During Camargo’s time in spring training this year, he had a string of defensive errors before he got hurt. This is not an encouraging notion and with his injury sidelining him from starting on opening day he is sure to be a little rusty when he gets back.
It is interesting to see how each made an impression on the club with their first appearances with the team. The reason I bring the above stats to your attention is to ask this question: should the Braves keep Ryan Flaherty at third as an everyday starter or should they bench him as soon as Johan Camargo is off the DL?
What it comes down to it, as of now, Flaherty is a better fit for third because he has three things: experience, a reliable bat and great defense – he has proven that. Camargo has had less experience. Even though he did ok last year and in what little time he played in Spring Training, his injury has put a stop sign on his ability to prove that he deserves third base as his own. What Camargo has going for him is that he knows the team and had time with the Braves to learn the ins and outs of what the managers and coaches want.
I like what I am seeing from Ryan Flaherty and I wouldn’t mind if he stuck around for a little while longer even after Camargo comes off the DL. Now, some of you may ask, why can’t they alternate playing third? And while that might be a good idea for some positions, you need someone consistent defensively on the hot corner, plus it’s not fair to split the role if one is doing better than the other; if someone is tremendously helping a team on both defense and offense, why not keep the guy in? why would you want to limit someone when they could be useful for the team?
My hope is that when it comes time to decide who to keep at third the Braves choose the guy that benefits the team the most and right now that guy looks like Ryan Flaherty. We will have to see how Camargo performs when he gets back, but if he goes 3 or 4 games with poor numbers and balls drive past him at third, put Flaherty back in. Then Camargo should be moved to being the back-up third basemen.
The Braves are doing well and keeping Flaherty at third, for the time being, looks like the way to go in order to continue the momentum they have gained. Whatever they are doing, pray they keep doing it, cause I like this ride the Braves are taking us all on.