- Gary Gillette, ESPN.com MLB insider contributor
Johnny Estrada, C
A bulldog overachiever if there ever was one, Estrada has been suffering with back problems since being unnecessarily run over at the plate by Darin Erstad in June. Estrada is just average defensively, which is actually an improvement, and he dramatically upped his percentage of runners thrown out to 31 percent this year. When healthy, Estrada can hit .300 but without any power, even though he likes to pull the ball.
Key stat: .215 BA and .526 OPS since All-Star break.
Adam LaRoche, 1B
A platoon first sacker whose production versus righties is still marginal, LaRoche draws raves for his glove at a position where fielding is less important. He has a hole in his swing and is not disciplined enough at the plate to draw walks, yet has he not hit for a high enough average to be an asset in the middle of the order where he bats. As a baserunner, he's a first baseman.
Key stat: Like other Atlanta players, LaRoche has thrived at home this season, with more than a 200-point spread in his OPS.
Marcus Giles, 2B
When off his game, Giles is just another cog in the mighty Braves machine. When on his game, Giles is a pint-size game-breaker who can beat opponents with his bat, his speed, and his glove. Defensively, Giles has plus range with an average arm and hands. At the plate, Giles hits to all fields with line-drive power but also has pull power on selected pitches. He is a good bunter and a good basestealer even though he has only average speed.
Key stat: After hitting only eight homers in the first five months of the season, Giles broke out for seven homers in September, though he sacrificed 70 points of batting average while doing so.
After years of being burdened with expectations, the Braves are revelling in the role of youthful overachievers.