Johan Camargo admits he's still learning how to hit and survive at shortstop, but even deep within the Braves' system, he has a focused goal.
"I'm very happy and proud to be one of the top prospects, but I don't think about it. I just want to play my game and play in the big leagues," he said. "That's my goal."
Camargo, Atlanta's 11th-ranked prospect, looked pretty polished on Wednesday afternoon as he went 5-for-5 and fell a homer shy of the cycle before Rome was stunned in the ninth inning of an 11-6 loss to West Virginia.
The 20-year-old beat out a bunt in the first inning, tripled leading off the fourth, reached on another bunt single in the fifth that plated Ronald Luna, doubled and scored in the seventh and added a two-out single in the eighth. It marked his sixth multi-hit effort in eight games and eclipsed his previous high for hits in a game, set most recently on July 9 for Rookie-level Danville.
"This is the first time I've ever had five hits, so it feels really good," Camargo said through translator and assistant hitting coach Nestor Perez. "I wasn't going into the game thinking about going 5-for-5, I just went pitch by pitch and just had a good day today."
Camargo's memorable day wasn't quite enough for the Braves (15-37), who surrendered six runs in the top of the ninth and squandered a 6-5 lead. Pirates No. 17 prospect JaCoby Jones went 3-for-6 and also fell a homer shy of the cycle, while Justin Maffei and Elvis Escobar each plated a pair of runs for the Power.
"We're working hard, we want to get better every day," Perez said. "We're seeing signs, and later on we're going to be all right by the end of the year. We're working hard, we just need to keep playing games hard and the results will come."
Camargo, a switch-hitter from Panama, is known as more of a contact hitter and solid defender as he lacks power and speed. Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2012, he boosted his prospect stock last year after hitting .294 with 14 RBIs and a .359 on-base percentage in 57 Appalachian League games. He debuted in 2012 in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, where he hit .343/.433/.887 in 59 games.
"It's always tough, but I'm staying confident and working hard with the hitting coaches every day," Camargo said. "The most important thing is trusting myself and being confident in what I can do."
Johan Camargo has raised his batting average 79 points since the end of April. (Shane Roper/MiLB.com)
The 6-foot shortstop got off to a slow start in April, batting .167. He's enjoyed a rebound in May -- Wednesday's effort boosted his average 24 points to .246 -- as he's hitting .325 in 25 games.
"I'm very happy. I was hitting something like .154 in April and the last 20 days, my average is up to .246 now," Camargo said. "This 5-for-5 game is the hard work I've put in over the last month to get better."
"We were very happy, we've been working had all season like he said, he was struggling in April last month, he was uncomfortable at the plate," Perez added. "It's good to see, the hard work with him every day and all the things, to see him now getting better, he goes 5-for-5 tonight, I think he's happy and confident, he knows he can do it."
Perez said Braves coaches, led by batting instructor Bobby Moore, kept it simple with Camargo. They noticed some problems with his swing and focused simply on correcting his approach.
"We just want to work with him, we don't want to work too many things at the same time," he said. "Right now, we're working on staying on top. He was always under the ball, so we want him to stay on top of the ball and that's what's working for him right now. He's doing pretty well."
Camargo said he's set a long-term goal of reaching Atlanta, assuming he can handle a promotion to the Carolina League this summer.
"It's a higher level and you see better pitchers and I'm just learning at this level, feeling more confident day by day," he said. "I'm working day by day and learning how to play baseball."
Perez, who spent seven seasons in the Minors as a middle infielder, said he sees a promising future for the shortstop. A 37-year-old from Cuba who stopped playing after the 2005 season, he was a similar hitter in the Rays' system.
"He's one of the top prospects, and one of the reasons is because of how he plays short," Perez said. "He's a natural shortstop, he can play the position, he looks very comfortable, he plays with high energy, he's solid and he's got a great future in this position."