Baseball

Mudcats’ All-Star Johan Camargo surprised by selection

Johan Camargo said he wasn’t really expecting to be named to the Carolina League’s all-star squad.

But he plans to make the most of it.

The Panamanian shortstop will represent the Carolina Mudcats – along with outfielder Dustin Peterson – in the California League-Carolina League All-Star Game on Tuesday in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. LoanMart Field is hosting for the third time.

Baseball America ranked Camargo, 21, as the 12th-best prospect in the Atlanta Braves’ organization heading into the season.

A fourth-year pro who signed at age 16, he has hit .280 over his career, with stops in the Dominican Summer, Appalachian and South Atlantic leagues before being called up to Lynchburg (the Braves’ former affiliate) last August. He was the Braves’ player of the year in the DSL in 2012 and was sixth in hitting in Atlanta’s minor-league system in 2013 with a .294 average for Danville.

Camargo was hitting .291 with 11 doubles, three triples and 18 RBIs entering Sunday.

“It’s going to be my first all-star game as a pro,” Camargo said with hitting coach Carlos Mendez serving as a translator. “The only other player on the Carolina League team I really know is (Wilmington Blue Rocks infielder) Ramon Torres.

“I wish there were more (Mudcats) on the team. But I’m just going to go out and try to play well and have a good time.”

Mudcats manager Luis Salazar said the organization has been happy with Camargo’s progress.

“His defense has always been really good,” said Salazar, who managed a 16-3 Carolina League victory in the 2013 game in San Jose. “I had him for a little while last year. The main things he needs to do is stay healthy and keep getting stronger.

“I think he can be a leader. That’s part of a shortstop’s job, to lead the infielders. I always tell young guys who are going to an all-star game to just play and have a good experience. And I hope he can bring the trophy back to Carolina.”

Camargo, who said he also played some soccer as a youngster, has an older brother Jose, who played in the Cleveland Indians’ organization. Johan played U-18 ball for Panama and hopes to represent his country in international play as a pro in a few years.

For now, he’s happy to be in Zebulon “because we get to play in such a great park.”

Camargo was in the May 12 team bus crash that put seven players on the disabled list. He suffered a slight knee injury.

“I was about 50 percent when we played three days later,” he said. “I was back to 100 percent within a week.

“The bus crash was part of the reason for the (12-game losing streak), but we lost some close games we should have won. I think we have a good team.”

Camargo said his favorite big-league player is former Mudcat Miguel Cabrera, and his favorite Panamanian big-leaguer is Ruben Tejada.

“Camargo is a hard worker,” Mendez said of the Mudcats’ every-day ninth hitter. “He’s put on about 10 pounds (to get to 160) and he can pull the ball some. We just want to keep him hitting .280 and .290, and he’ll get to the big leagues.”

Last season’s Mudcats outfielder Luigi Rodriguez, now with the Lynchburg Hillcats, also was selected to the Carolina League squad. So was Raleigh native Duane Underwood Jr., who pitches for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

California League-Carolina League All-Star Game

When: 10:35 p.m., Tuesday

Where: LoanMart Field (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.)

Online radio coverage: rcquakes.com

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