By all local accounts, he’s the catcher. Nationally, there still seems to be the belief that he’s got to beat Eli Marrero for the job, but the Braves seem to be thinking Marrero is a utility player, and as I’ve stated before the Braves wouldn’t have signed Eddie Perez to back up if they were going to have a competition. Estrada will have to lose his job to not play.
Estrada’s apparent leap forward last year was primarily — but not entirely — in batting average. He went from hitting .279 in 2002 to hitting .328, a 49-point jump. His slugging percentage went up 77 points, his on-base percentage 71. I think some of his gains are real. He should be a credible regular catcher, nothing special, for the next two or three years, until Brian McCann is ready. (Assuming McCann ever is ready and stays at catcher.) He won’t come close to what Javy Lopez did last year, but should be better than what Javy did in 2002. He’s a good defensive catcher but (despite his reputation) so was Javy, so I don’t expect any gains there.