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MLB's Biggest Surprises by Position

Jordan BallCorrespondent IApril 19, 2012

MLB's Biggest Surprises by Position

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    The buzz of Opening Day is quickly wearing off as another year of baseball gets underway.

    Though the MLB season is still young, it has not disappointed. 

    We have seen walk-offs, heart-breakers, heated arguments and even suspensions. With a crazy start like this, there is no telling what will come next.

    There have been several break-out players around the league, some more unexpected than others. With that being said, let's break down this season's biggest surprises by position. 

    *Stats are from MLB.com, ESPN.com and Baseball-Reference.com. 

Dishonorable Mention: Tim Lincecum

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    Season stats: 0-2, 10.54 ERA, 16 K's

    I think I speak for everyone when I say that I am completely shocked at Lincecum's abysmal start. 

    In his first three games, the two-time Cy Young Award winner has had career worsts in almost every statistical category. He's allowed nine earned runs in the first inning this year after allowing seven all of last season. He also recorded the shortest outing of his career when he only lasted 2.1 innings in his second start against Colorado. 

    Will he bounce back or could this be the beginning of the fall of one of the best young pitchers the game has ever seen?

    Hopefully, for Giants fans and baseball in general, he figures out what's wrong and gets back to his usual dominant self. 

Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski

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    Stat line: .400 AVG, 4 HR, 13 RBI

    For a guy who hasn't hit above .300 in a season since 2003, Pierzynksi is off to a pretty darn good start.

    His four home runs have him on pace to double his career total. Pierzynski didn't have his fourth home run until July 25th of last year, and now has that many in only nine games played. In his past three games alone, he has seven hits in 11 at-bats with two long balls.

    If the White Sox want to have a shot at competing in the American League Central, Pierzynski will have to play at a level similar to this for the majority of the season. 

    As old as he is getting, I don't see this hot-headed catcher playing enough games to remain among the league's best at his position. There is no denying, however, that he is off to a scorching start. 

First Base: Carlos Pena

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    Season stats: .356 AVG, 3 HR, 12 RBI

    The last time Rays fans saw Carlos Pena in their uniform, he was sporting a .196 batting average. Surprisingly enough, the spectators at Tropicana Field gave Pena a standing ovation in his first plate appearance back with the ball club. 

    Pena didn't let them down, ripping a grand slam to right field to start off the year. He finished that game going 3-for-5 with five RBI, his fifth being a walk-off winner against Mariano Rivera and the Yankees. 

    It's hard to top that opener, but he's been giving it a valiant effort in the 11 games since. 

    It's no surprise that Pena can put up power numbers, but an average above .300 (let alone .200) will go a long way in helping the Rays establish themselves as World Series contenders. 

Second Base: Omar Infante

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    Season stats: .333 AVG, 4 HR, 6 RBI

    It's no secret that Infante has the ability to be a consistent hitter, which is one of the main reasons why the Marlins swapped him for Dan Uggla back in 2010. 

    Though Infante's numbers have declined since his last season with the Braves, you could still argue that the Marlins still got the better end of the deal with the ho-hum season Dan Uggla had with division rival Atlanta. 

    This year, however, has a different look to it. With Infante off to a hot start, the Marlins can be a legitimate threat once the rest of the team gets rolling. The talent up and down the batting order will guarantee that he gets the most out of his at-bats.

    As long as can get stay active and get on base, Miami should have no trouble racking up the wins. 

Third Base: David Freese

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    Season stats: .385 AVG, 3 HR, 13 RBI

    Coming off a World Series MVP performance last fall, it's safe to say that David Freese had made a name for himself in the big leagues. 

    As big a performance as he had, I don't think too many people saw him starting off the 2012 season this hot. The young third baseman is not just off to a good start, but a fantastic one.

    Though he isn't seeing the field every day, he is still finding a way to remain hot and be a productive bat in a St. Louis offense that was supposed to fall off after losing Albert Pujols in the offseason.

    If Freese can play at this level all season, the only thing stopping him from an MVP award is a certain Dodgers outfielder. 

Shortstop: Derek Jeter

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    Season stats: .389, 4 HR, 10 RBI

    Since the 2009 season when Jeter hit .334 and helped the Yankees win their 27th World Series, there has been a lot of talk about how he is on the decline. 

    I guess someone forgot to give him the memo.

    Through 12 games last year, Jeter was batting .255 with only 3 RBI. He didn't hit his first home run until May 8th and didn't reach four until July 25th. His average was never above .333. 

    As you can see from the stat line above, he is having a much better start this season. In fact, the last time he had four homers in his first 12 games was in 1999. That also just so happened to be the best year of Jeter's career and led to another Yankees World Series triumph.

    I won't go out on a limb and say he's going to surpass the numbers he put up that year, but I do think that he will silence his critics as the year goes on.

Left Field: Josh Willingham

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    Season stats: .356 AVG, 5 HR, 9 RBI

    Coming off an impressive year with the A's where he hit 29 home runs, Willingham was a highly-touted target for teams in need of an outfielder.

    The Twins ended up winning the bidding war, but even they could not have expected the kind of numbers he is putting up.

    Arguably the most underrated acquisition of the offseason, Willingham has quickly made himself a fan favorite in Minnesota. In each of his 12 games as a Twin, he has recorded at least one hit and has 16 total.

    He's leading his team in all five major offensive categories and is making everyone around him better.

    With the recent re-emergence of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, the three have combined to become one of the most productive trios in the game.

    With a little help from their supporting cast, the Minnesota Twins could be a team to watch as the season progresses. 

Center Field: Matt Kemp

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    Stat line: .457 AVG, 6 HR, 17 RBI

    There is no reason to be surprised that the reigning National League MVP runner-up is off to a great start. There is plenty of reason, however, to be shocked at just how amazing a start he's actually having. 

    When he stated that he was going to be the first member of the "50-50 club" (50 home runs and 50 stolen bases), many took that as a joke. It's time to take him seriously. 

    Not only could he defy all odds in starting that "50-50'' club, he could also make history by bringing home a Triple Crown. He's already leading in two of the categories and only trailing in average to David Wright, who is hitting .500.

    With Kemp's consistency and Wright's lack thereof, Kemp could easily take the lead in that category as well. 

    This season has the potential to be full of surprises for Kemp and the Dodgers, so it's best to just sit back and enjoy the show. 

Right Field: Carlos Beltran

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    Season stats: .341 AVG, 5 HR, 7 RBI

    Carlos Beltran has been a question mark for a few years now. Ever since signing a huge contact with the New York Mets and battling injuries, no one knew if he would ever be the hitter that he was on track to becoming. 

    In an attempt to make up for the loss of Albert Pujols, the Cardinals signed Beltran as a free agent and decided to give him a shot in right, and the rest has been history. The 34-year-old is off to the best start of his career and is quieting the doubters. 

    Much like Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran has something to prove, and so far he is doing just that. 

Pitcher: Jamie Moyer

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    Stat line: 1-2, 2.55 ERA, 6 K's

    Obviously, those aren't very impressive stats for a guy who has made three starts. The ERA is respectable, but six strikeouts in 17.2 innings is laughable. 

    However, when it is 49-year-old man who is putting up those numbers, they automatically get a handicap.

    On Tuesday night, Moyer became the oldest pitcher to win a major league game when he pitched seven shutout innings against the Padres. 

    Considering the number of innings he has pitched and that he just sat out an entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Moyer's accomplishments are remarkable.

    The most amazing thing is that he's doing it without even touching 80 mph on the radar gun.  

    There's still a lot of baseball left to be played, so there's no way of knowing what the year has in store for Moyer. But for now, there's no bigger or better surprise. 

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