The All-Underrated Braves: C
I hate to include a guy arrested for making death threats against his wife, as Johnny Estrada was alleged to have done last August, but there’s no morals clause for the All-Underrated team.
Estrada was acquired in a move of unnecessary desperation brought upon by Greg Maddux’s decision to accept arbitration. JS, who had signed Paul Byrd and acquired Russ Ortiz in a trade, was in a bind, having committed too much money to the starting rotation. (Then why sign Byrd?) That brought about the trade of Kevin Millwood to the Phils for Estrada, a 27-year-old catcher with a .222 BA in 315 AB’s. Estrada spent much of his first year in Richmond but would be the catcher by default in 2004 after Javy Lopez left for Baltimore.
He ended up an All-Star, batting .314 with a .378 OBP, 9 HR and 76 RBI while providing steady defense behind the plate. And come playoff time he was the only Brave who remembered how to hit, homering twice with a .353 BA vs. the Astros.
Estrada regressed considerably in ’05, and, after getting injured in a home plate collision with Darin Erstad, was Wally Pipped by B-Mac. That offseason he was dealt to the D’backs for Lance Cormier and Oscar Villarreal.
His legacy wasn’t significant, but for one year, at least, Estrada was a revelation.