ATLANTA -- When the Braves were mulling the possibility of including Yunel Escobar in a trade package for Jake Peavy this past offseason, Chipper Jones said that Escobar had the tools to be considered the National League's top shortstop.
As he nears the completion of his third Major League season, Escobar has displayed improved offensive skills that have provided more credence to Jones' claim and also put him in position to be one of the nominees for this year's Hank Aaron Award.
Jones, Escobar and Brian McCann have been selected as the Braves nominees for this year's Hank Aaron Award, which is named after the legendary outfielder who established himself as one of the game's greatest legends while spending the first 21 years of his 23-year playing career with the Braves.
The Hank Aaron Award, presented by Sharp, is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having three nominees. This is the seventh consecutive year that fans have had a voice in selecting the award winners.
Fans can vote through Sept. 15 to determine the club nominee, and then voting will be held Sept. 16-30 to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced during the World Series.
Last year's winners were Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis and Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.
While keeping his batting average around .300 and ranking among the league leaders in batting average with runners in scoring position most of this season, Escobar has ranked among the Braves' most consistent run producers. In addition with more consistent power, he has already matched his previous career-best totals in homers and RBIs.
Escobar's bid to lead the Braves in RBIs has been threatened by the surge McCann has made since he overcame the vision problems that limited him to 13 games during the season's first five weeks.
Even while encountering some unexpected struggles against left-handed pitchers, McCann has produced stats similar to the ones that helped him win two Silver Slugger Awards during his first three full seasons.
At 25 years old, McCann has already earned four All-Star selections. Since the start of the 2006 season, he leads all Major League catchers in many of the major offensive statistical categories.
Coming off his first career batting title, Jones has seen his statistics dip this season. But the 37-year-old third baseman, who has established himself as one of the greatest switch-hitters to ever play in the Majors, has still kept his batting average around .300 and seen his run production increase since the Braves acquired Nate McLouth and placed him in the leadoff spot.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.