Ranking MLB's Top 50 Hitters at the One-Quarter Mark of the 2012 Season

Doug Mead@@Sports_A_HolicCorrespondent IMay 21, 2012

Ranking MLB's Top 50 Hitters at the One-Quarter Mark of the 2012 Season

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    By the time interleague action ends on Sunday night, the 2012 MLB season will have reached the one-quarter mark, and while some of the usual suspects are at the top of the hitting charts, there are some surprises as well.

    The first two months of the season have certainly been eventful thus far—a perfect game, a no-hitter, a four-homer game and many other events and highlights that have already generated much interest early on.

    Several of the hitters on this list may surprise—off to blazing starts thus far. Whether or not they can sustain their hot play out of the gate remains to be seen, but their production thus far has been of huge benefit to their respective teams.

    We will take a look at the top 50 hitters of the first quarter of the season. Rankings are based on stats culled from several different sources, along with a dash of gut instinct (much like old-fashioned managers).

    Note: All player statistics are for games played through Friday night.

50. Mike Trout: Los Angeles Angels

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    When the 2012 season started, Los Angeles Angels top-rated prospect Mike Trout was beginning play for the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees. It literally came down for numbers, as Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter, Peter Bourjos, Bobby Abreu and Mark Trumbo were all vying for ample playing time.

    However, Abreu was released by GM Jerry DiPoto, and with Bourjos off to a very slow start at the plate, Trout got the call after hitting .403 in 20 games at Salt Lake, and since his arrival, he hasn't slowed down at all.

    Heading into the final two games in San Diego, Trout was hitting .338 with three HR, nine RBI, four stolen bases and a .971 OPS, giving manager Mike Scioscia a weapon at the top of the order that hasn't been seen since Chone Figgins departed for Seattle.

49. Asdrubal Cabrera: Cleveland Indians

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    In 2011, Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera had a breakout season, hitting .273 with 25 HR and 92 RBI, earned his first All-Star selection and took home Silver Sluggers honors for the first time.

    Cabrera has shown, thus far in 2012, that last season was not an aberration, hitting .316 with four HR, 17 RBI, 12 doubles and a .901 OPS.

    Cabrera's steady offense and sure-handed glove has been a big factor in his team's hot start, leading the AL Central over the Detroit Tigers by three games heading into Saturday play.

48. J.J. Hardy: Baltimore Orioles

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    With a record of 26-14 heading into Saturday play, the Baltimore Orioles are clearly the surprise team of the majors, sporting the best record in the American League.

    Much of their success can be attributed to a bullpen that has been downright nasty all season long, but they have also featured an offense that is first in the league in home runs and fourth in runs scored. Shortstop J.J. Hardy has provided a good portion of their power thus far.

    Hardy was terrific his first season in Baltimore, establishing career highs in homers (30) and tying his career-high in RBI (80). This year, Hardy is picking up right where he left off, with nine HR and 20 RBI heading into Saturday's game with the Washington Nationals.

    While many are no doubt waiting for the O's to falter at some point, Hardy has thus far done his best to stop that from happening.

47. Billy Butler: Kansas City Royals

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    In his role as a full-time designated hitter, Kansas City Royals slugger Billy Butler has definitely found his comfort zone.

    Butler continues to be one of the most consistent hitters in the majors, always hovering around the .300 mark and providing power and production that's required in his role.

    Butler has seven HR and 28 RBI heading into Saturday play and is on pace to match or surpass last year's numbers of 19 HR and 95 RBI.

    For a team loaded with youngsters who are still trying to find their way, Butler is a steadying presence.

46. Mark Trumbo: Los Angeles Angels

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    When the 2012 season first started in Anaheim, it was difficult for Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia to figure out how to get slugger Mark Trumbo into the lineup. With a glut of outfielders along with newly acquired Albert Pujols taking over at first base and with the return of Kendrys Morales, Scioscia had his hands full trying to find at-bats for Trumbo.

    However, Trumbo's play in the first two months of the season has made it an easy choice for Scioscia. Whether playing a corner outfield position, third base or DH, it hasn't mattered to Trumbo, who is hitting .365 with seven HR and 16 RBI heading into play on Saturday.

    Trumbo is also hitting .531 during his current nine-game hitting streak entering Saturday's game with the San Diego Padres. Considering what he has done at the plate, Scioscia will continue inserting him into the lineup every day, regardless of where he plays.

45. Giancarlo Stanton: Miami Marlins

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    Last year at age 21, Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton showed the baseball world that he is indeed one of the great young rising stars in the majors, hitting .262 with 34 HR and 87 RBI.

    Thus far in 2012, Stanton has continued his development, with eight HR, 24 RBI and a .281 average. Stanton has shown better plate discipline as well and has firmly entrenched himself as the go-to man in the Marlins' lineup.

44. Adrian Beltre: Texas Rangers

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    The way the Texas Rangers have started out offensively this year and considering how deep their lineup is, you could almost make a case for including just about everyone in their batting order on this list.

    However, there have been a couple who stand out a bit more, including third baseman Adrian Beltre.

    Beltre is coming off a monster year in which he earned a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove award, hitting .296 with 32 HR and 105 RBI. This year, Beltre is hitting .311 with eight HR and 25 RBI and continues to stand out defensively.

    Beltre continues to get great chances to be productive, hitting behind the likes of Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton and will no doubt continue to reap the benefits as the season moves forward.

43. Cody Ross: Boston Red Sox

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    When the Boston Red Sox signed outfielder Cody Ross to a one-year, $3 million deal this offseason, many viewed it as an excellent acquisition despite Ross' down year in San Francisco.

    For the Giants, Ross suffered through a dismal year after being one of the heroes in the postseason in 2010. Ross hit just .248 with 14 HR and 52 RBI in 2011.

    However, experts pointed to Ross' swing as being perfect for Fenway Park, and so far, they haven't been wrong.

    Through this past Friday night, Ross was hitting .271 with eight HR and 28 RBI and is on pace to shatter his career highs in both homers (24) and RBI (90).

    If, in fact, Ross does surpass those numbers, the $3 million spent by the Red Sox will have been an incredible bargain.

42. Jason Kipnis: Cleveland Indians

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    After one look at Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, one thought comes to mind—the kid is a ballplayer.

    Kipnis shined in his debut last season with the Tribe, hitting seven HR with 19 RBI in 36 games. Through his first 39 games this season, Kipnis has nearly matched that total with six HR and 23 RBI along with a league-leading three triples and six stolen bases.

    Kipnis is on pace for a 20-20 season, and at 25 years of age, has quickly shown Indians' fans that he is a natural-born ballplayer who will likely be making hay for years to come.

41. David Freese: St. Louis Cardinals

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    In his brief major league career, St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese has been besieged by various injuries that has limited him. So far in 2012, Freese has largely avoided any such calamities, and the Cards have benefited from Freese's good health.

    As of Saturday, Freese was hitting .272 with eight HR and 29 HR and is clearly on a pace that would shatter previous career highs in home runs and runs batted in.

    Freese has provided excellent defense as well, with just two errors in 34 games at the hot corner.

40. Omar Infante: Miami Marlins

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    Now in his second season in South Florida, Miami Marlins second baseman Omar Infante has clearly found his new home to his liking, and the Marlins have benefited greatly as a result.

    Hitting second in the Marlins' batting order behind Jose Reyes, Infante is hitting a robust .326 with six HR and 20 RBI, with a .927 OPS and settling in at his permanent spot at second base after years of being shuffled around to multiple positions.

    With Jose Reyes starting to heat up, he and Infante together provide a formidable table-setting tandem for the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton and Gaby Sanchez.

39. Dan Uggla: Atlanta Braves

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    This time last year, Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla was finding life miserable in his new home. Through the first 40 games last season, Uggla was hitting just .199 with six HR and 14 RBI.

    Uggla did rebound from his horrid start to raise his average to .233 with 36 HR, and this year, the first two months of the season for Uggla has been much more pleasant, with a .271 average, five HR and 24 RBI while leading the National League with 29 runs scored.

    For a Braves' offense that counts on Uggla's production, he has proven to be a much more reliable bat than at this point last season.

38. Jose Altuve: Houston Astros

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    At 17-22 entering Saturday's game with the Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros have hung tough through the first quarter of the season, despite fielding a team that many local writers predicted as being one of the worst in the majors.

    Astros' fans have seen spirited play thus far, and second baseman Jose Altuve is quickly becoming a fan favorite.

    Altuve is hitting .315 with two HR, 13 RBI, three triples and nine stolen bases and has quickly established himself as one of the young leaders of an inexperienced Astros' squad.

    The Astros may not be vying for a postseason berth, but there is a lot of hope for the future with stars like Altuve in place.

37. Yadier Molina: St. Louis Cardinals

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    For the better part of nine seasons now, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has provided his team with a steady presence behind the plate, collecting four straight Gold Glove awards in the process and regarded as the best defensive catcher in the National League.

    Now, with Albert Pujols gone, Molina has become the leader and stabilizing force for the Cardinals, and with his new five-year, $75 million contract extension in place, Molina is acting like a leader and hitting like one as well.

    Thus far in 2012, Molina is hitting .292 with five HR and 20 RBI, and on this current pace, would set career highs in both slugging categories. The Cards are sitting atop the NL Central Division by 2.5 games over the Cincinnati Reds, and Molina's presence in the lineup and leadership behind the scenes has much to do with their early-season success thus far.

36. Melky Cabrera: San Francisco Giants

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    Last season, outfielder Melky Cabrera put together a season in which he became a dream for fantasy baseball fans, putting together numbers across the board that led to a career season.

    In 2011 with the Kansas City Royals, Cabrera set career highs in home runs (18), RBI (87), hits (201), runs scored (102), doubles (44), stolen bases (20) and batting average (.305).

    Even after his career year, Cabrera found himself playing for another team in 2012, being dealt to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez.

    No worries, however. Cabrera has taken a liking to his new home by the bay as well. Thus far in 2012, Cabrera is hitting a robust .331 with two HR and 16 RBI. While AT&T Park may rob Cabrera of some of his power, he has provided a huge lift for manager Bruce Bochy and the Giants offense.

35. Kelly Johnson: Toronto Blue Jays

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    For Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson, last year was pretty much a lost season. After hitting just .203 with 132 strikeouts in 114 games, the Arizona Diamondbacks finally gave up on him and swapped second basemen with the Blue Jays, the Jays sending Aaron Hill and utility infielder John McDonald in return.

    Johnson showed signs of breaking out of his season-long slump after the trade, hitting .270 in his final 33 games in Toronto.

    In 2012, Johnson has found his power stroke, connecting for eight HR and 21 RBI in his first 38 games, hitting at a .257 clip. Along with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, Johnson gives the Jays a nice trio of players capable of breaking open a game with one swing.

34. Josh Willingham: Minnesota Twins

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    There's certainly no joy in Mudville—er, I mean Minneapolis, this season. The Minnesota Twins have the worst record in baseball at 13-26 through Friday, and things may not get better anytime soon.

    However, they at least have Josh Willingham to thank for a few highlights.

    In his first season in Minnesota, Willingham has produced thus far, hitting .298 with eight HR and 24 RBI along with 13 doubles and is on pace to come close to matching last year's power numbers while with the Oakland A's, which were career highs for Willingham.

    Still, even with Willingham's solid production, the Twins are at or near the bottom of most offensive categories in the American League. It will be a long year in Minnesota, indeed.

33. Martin Prado: Atlanta Braves

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    For many years, the Atlanta Braves have been known for their great pitching staffs that at times carried the team. Still armed with a great staff in 2012, the Braves have also been scoring runs in bunches, and their two top-of-the-order table-setters, center fielder Michael Bourn and left fielder Martin Prado, are a big reason why.

    Prado has excelled in the No. 2 spot in the batting order this year, hitting a robust .324 with 18 extra-base hits and a .396 on-base percentage.

    Combined with Bourn's leadoff prowess, the two have been consistent presences on the basepaths, setting up countless scoring opportunities for the meat of the Braves' order.

32. Elvis Andrus: Texas Rangers

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    At just 23 years of age, Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus is already a grizzled veteran, now in his fourth full season in the majors. Now, he's playing like one as well.

    Through 38 games, Andrus is hitting .318 with an even more impressive .396 on-base percentage. Hitting second in the lineup, Andrus has done an outstanding job getting on base in front of Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young and Nelson Cruz.

    Andrus was on base for each of Hamilton's four home runs on his record-tying day on May 8, against the Baltimore Orioles.

31. Adam LaRoche: Washington Nationals

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    Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche had to endure a devastating injury along with numerous offseason rumors about possibly being replaced by free agent Prince Fielder.

    However, the Nats passed on Fielder, and LaRoche is now fully healthy and leading the Nats' offense in 2012.

    With his shoulder fully healed from a torn labrum that led to season-ending surgery last year, LaRoche is leading the Nats with a .323 average, seven HR and 30 RBI.

    His steady production and presence in the lineup has been a welcome sight for the Nationals, who were just a game out of first place in the NL East Division behind the Atlanta Braves before Saturday night's contest with the Baltimore Orioles.

30. Dustin Pedroia: Boston Red Sox

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    Lost in the wake of last season's epic September collapse by the Boston Red Sox was the fact that second baseman Dustin Pedroia put together a spectacular season, in many ways as good if not better than his MVP season of 2008.

    Pedroia set career highs in both home runs (21) and RBI (91) while hitting .307 and swiping 26 bases.

    So far this season, Pedroia hasn't let off the gas, hitting .305 with five HR and 18 RBI, being his normal pesky self in the top third of the batting order.

    Pedroia has become the de facto leader of the Sox, and he continues to lead by example.

29. Hunter Pence: Philadelphia Phillies

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    When looking at the way Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence plays the game of baseball, one can't help but stop and wonder just how he has become such a force on the baseball field.

    Pence's quirky motions and unorthodox style is a hitting coach's nightmare, however, he continues to just plain hit.

    Through 39 games, Pence has 10 HR and 28 RBI, and if he continues on that pace, will easily smash previous career highs in both categories.

    On a team that badly misses the bats of both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, Pence has taken it upon himself to add as much production as possible to a struggling Phillies offense.

28. Bryan LaHair: Chicago Cubs

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    At the age of 29, Chicago Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair was finally given the opportunity to play every day at the major league level, and he has certainly made the most of it.

    Through his first 36 games, LaHair is batting .322 with 10 HR and 21 RBI and has been one of the nice surprises in the National League thus far.

    Many have mused about the Cubs calling up prospect Anthony Rizzo, who is tearing up Triple-A ball with a .353 average, 14 HR and 39 RBI, however, LaHair's play is making that decision very difficult indeed.

27. Jay Bruce: Cincinnati Reds

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    While the Cincinnati Reds have former MVP Joey Votto to rely on for consistent offensive production, they also have the steady bat of right fielder Jay Bruce as well.

    Bruce is hitting .277 with 10 HR, 27 RBI, a .902 OPS and hit the 100th homer of his relatively short career on May 8.

26. Paul Konerko: Chicago White Sox

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    When Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko was hit in the face by a splitter that got away from Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija on Friday afternoon, Sox fans held their breath, hoping against the worst.

    Fortunately, Konerko will only miss a day or two of action after a CT scan showed no damage. Konerko will sport a few stitches for a while but should be back in action no later than Tuesday.

    At the age of 36, Konerko shows no signs of slowing down, hitting a healthy .367 with eight HR and 23 RBI, leading the American League with a .453 on-base percentage.

25. Freddie Freeman: Atlanta Braves

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    After a sparkling rookie season that saw him finish second in National League Rookie of the Year balloting to teammate Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has refused to fall victim to the dreaded sophomore jinx.

    Through his first 38 games in 2012, Freeman is hitting .275 with seven HR and 32 RBI, well on his way to topping last year's numbers of 21 HR and 76 RBI.

    Freeman is certainly looking like a man who could be a mainstay in the Braves offense for many years to come.

24. Matt Holliday: St. Louis Cardinals

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    Battling nagging injuries throughout much of the 2011 season, St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday was being looked upon as a key piece to the Cards offense in 2012 after the departure of Albert Pujols.

    So far, Holliday hasn't disappointed, and he's been healthy.

    Through 37 games, Holliday is hitting .263 with nine HR and 29 RBI, and together with Carlos Beltran, the two have more than made up for the loss of Pujols, with the Cards currently leading the National League in many offensive categories.

23. Ian Kinsler: Texas Rangers

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    It speaks volumes for the potent offense of the Texas Rangers when you can lead off with a hitter who has posted two 30-30 seasons during his career.

    Second baseman Ian Kinsler continues to be a force at the top of the lineup for the Rangers. Through his first 38 games, Kinsler is hitting .287 with five HR and 18 RBI and leads the American League with 34 runs scored.

    With Kinsler and Elvis Andrus at the top, the heart of the Rangers batting order continues to have multiple opportunities for run-producing at-bats.

22. Adam Dunn: Chicago White Sox

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    Last year, not only did the Chicago White Sox designated hitter not even have a sniff at a list like this, he was saved the embarrassment of having the worst batting average in MLB history for anyone qualifying for a batting order, thanks to manager Ozzie Guillen cutting back his playing time late in the season.

    This season, however, Dunn is back to being Dunn.

    Through 40 games, Dunn has already surpassed last year's home run total for the entire season, with 12 HR and 30 RBI.

    Sure, Dunn is going to strike out plenty, and he'll likely hit somewhere below .250. However, his normal production that saw him hit at least 38 HR for seven consecutive seasons will be more than enough for the Sox.

21. Joey Votto: Cincinnati Reds

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    After signing a 10-year, $225 million contract in early April with the mid-market Cincinnati Reds, first baseman Joey Votto set out to make good on the Reds' faith in him. Thus far, it's hard to say he has disappointed.

    Votto is currently hitting .308 with six HR and 25 RBI and leads the NL in both walks (32) and doubles (17) after leading the league in both categories last season as well.

    While the home run total is a bit low, Votto still has a 1.032 OPS and continues to prove his worth as one of best left-handed hitters in baseball.

20. Starlin Castro: Chicago Cubs

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    At 22 years of age, Dominican-born shortstop Starlin Castro continues to mature and grow as a player, and for the Chicago Cubs, Castro has been a worthy investment.

    After batting .307 last year, leading the National League in hits and making the All-Star team, Castro has picked up right where he left off, hitting .323 through his first 39 games in 2012.

    Castro is still a work in progress, as evidenced by his relatively low .333 OPB and just four walks drawn. However, Castro is fast becoming one of the better shortstops in the National League and continues to develop his skills as a better all-around player.

19. Josh Reddick: Oakland Athletics

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    For some reason, the Boston Red Sox didn't seem to have the faith that Josh Reddick could develop into their everyday right fielder, so they shipped him off to the Oakland Athletics in the deal that brought closer Andrew Bailey to Boston.

    However, Reddick thus far has shown that he is more than up to the task of manning right field each and every day, while Bailey remains on the disabled list recovering from thumb surgery.

    Reddick is hitting .278 with 10 HR and 22 RBI thus far in 39 games, already surpassing surpassing the seven home runs hit in 87 games last season with the Red Sox. Half of his home run output has been produced at the cavernous O.co Coliseum, known for its ability to turn home run hitters into pop-fly artists.

    I'd say the trade has worked out pretty well for the A's so far.

18. Derek Jeter: New York Yankees

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    There are, no doubt, naysayers out there who will continue to say that the New York Yankees shortstop is over the hill, past his prime, nothing more than a Punch and Judy hitter, blah, blah, blah, ad nauseam.

    Let's see.

    Through his first 38 games, Jeter is hitting .360, he leads the majors in hits (58), has an OPS 80 points above his career mark and has a fielding percentage of .977, .001 better than his career mark.

    Yeah, that Jeter. He's washed up.

17. Miguel Cabrera: Detroit Tigers

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    When the Detroit Tigers went out and paid Prince Fielder $245 million over 10 years to play in Motown, just about everyone on the planet immediately anointed the Tigers World Series contenders and a sure bet to take the AL Central Division title for the second year in a row.

    With Fielder and noted slugger Miguel Cabrera hitting 3-4 in the lineup, not many doubted that notion. However, the Tigers have stumbled out to a 19-21 record and in third place in the AL Central heading into Sunday's action.

    While the offensive explosion widely expected has largely fizzled in the first quarter of the season, Cabrera continues to produce. Through Saturday night, Cabrera is hitting .309 with eight HR and 34 RBI—on pace to equal last season's production.

    Once he and Fielder really heat up, which I assume will happen sooner rather than later, the AL Central race may look much like last year, with everyone looking up at the Tigers as they speed away to another title.

16. Andrew McCutchen: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is out to show that he is indeed one of the rising stars in Major League Baseball.

    McCutchen is hitting .346 with seven HR and 20 RBI, leads his team with seven steals and is again playing center field with the grace of a gazelle.

    Unfortunately, McCutchen has no support from the rest of the lineup. The Pirates are dead last in the NL in runs scored, last in batting average and at or near the bottom of the league in nearly every major offensive category.

15. Curtis Granderson: New York Yankees

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    New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson is highly regarded as one of the real nice guys in baseball—giving, generous with his time to many charitable commitments and a pleasure to be around in the clubhouse.

    This year, he's proving once again that he's also one of the true sluggers in the game as well.

    Following up on a career year in 2011 that saw him hit 41 HR with 119 RBI, Granderson has 13 HR and 23 RBI at the quarter pole of this season—on pace for roughly 52 homers.

    On a team loaded with sluggers, Granderson stands tall.

14. Carlos Ruiz: Philadelphia Phillies

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    Chooch is getting it done in Philly.

    Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz has always been a good hitter with a .271 career batting average, but this season, Ruiz's game has soared.

    Through action on Saturday night, Ruiz is hitting .358 with seven HR and 29 RBI, including a .411 average this month.

    On a team struggling without its top two sluggers, Ruiz has done all he can to lessen the impact.

13. Andre Ethier: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    When the Los Angeles Dodgers lost the services of center fielder Matt Kemp earlier this week to a strained hamstring, many no doubt thought the boys in blue would fold up and wither away without him. Right fielder Andre Ethier is doing all he can to keep his boys afloat.

    Ethier is hitting .304 with eight HR and a league-leading 36 RBI through Saturday, and his Dodgers are on the verge of sweeping the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals after their 6-0 whitewashing on Saturday night.

    Maybe it's the contract year thing?

12. Carlos Gonzalez: Colorado Rockies

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    With all of the transactions made by the Colorado Rockies this season, one would think that their play on the field would be better than what was seen in 2011, when they stumbled to a 73-89 record and a dismal fourth-place finish in the NL West.

    However, those transactions have not led to much success this year so far, with the Rockies off to a 15-24 start thus far. But the play of right fielder Carlos Gonzalez has been stellar thus far.

    Gonzalez is hitting .294 with seven HR and 30 RBI thus far and leads the Rockies in nearly every significant offensive category. With early-season slumps being experienced by established stars and veterans Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki, Gonzalez has been one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise dismal offensive performance.

11. Ryan Braun: Milwaukee Brewers

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    After a tumultuous offseason that saw Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun embroiled in controversy over alleged use of PEDs and his subsequent successful appeal, it would have almost seemed natural, pardon the pun, that he would somehow stumble through the season.

    It's hard to look at his numbers, thus far, and see any signs of stumbling.

    Braun is currently hitting .319 with 11 HR, 24 RBI, a 1.012 OPS and a .626 slugging percentage. I would hardly call that a letdown.

10. Austin Jackson: Detroit Tigers

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    Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson has been out the past four games nursing an abdominal strain, and his Tigers have certainly felt the pinch.

    Jackson is on the verge of a breakout season, hitting .331 with five HR and 17 RBI through his first 36 games. His .414 on-base percentage is a welcome sight at the top of the batting order for manager Jim Leyland, who believed in Jackson's abilities as a leadoff man despite calls to drop Jackson lower in the batting order.

    For a Tigers offense that has sputtered despite the presence of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, Jackson has been the right man for the job at the top of the order.

9. Rafael Furcal: St. Louis Cardinals

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    At 34 years of age and with a body ravaged by injuries over the past several seasons, St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal certainly wasn't expected to be a huge offensive influence in the Cardinals' lineup. However, someone forgot to tell Furcal that.

    Thus far, Furcal is hitting .360 with two HR, 18 RBI, seven stolen bases and 11 doubles, and his .975 fielding percentage is a full .009 points higher than his career mark.

    Furcal may have lost a step, but he's certainly playing with a skip in his step.

8. David Ortiz: Boston Red Sox

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    When Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz reported to camp a full 30 pounds lighter than last year, it was evident that Ortiz was hellbent on proving that his 36-year-old body was still capable of turning on a fastball and continuing to produce stellar numbers.

    Thus far in the 2012 season, no one can doubt that.

    Ortiz is hitting .344 with nine HR and 29 RBI through his first 40 games, with a 1.034 OBP to boot.

    Ortiz has five Silver Slugger awards to his credit, and based on his play thus far in 2012, he's ready to add another to his mantel as well.

7. Michael Bourn: Atlanta Braves

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    The Atlanta Braves are sitting atop the NL East Division with a 25-16 record, and a major factor has been an offense that scores runs in bunches, starting with their leadoff hitter Michael Bourn.

    Bourn has been phenomenal in his first full season with the Braves, hitting .328 with a league-leading 58 hits, 13 stolen bases and a .387 on-base percentage.

    In Bourn, the Braves have a leadoff hitter they've been craving for years, and the offense is clicking as a result.

6. Adam Jones: Baltimore Orioles

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    With a record of 27-14, the Baltimore Orioles have the second best in all of baseball, and while their fans may be waiting for the roof to cave in after 14 consecutive losing seasons, center fielder Adam Jones is doing all he can to make sure fans aren't disappointed yet again.

    Jones leads an offensive attack that currently leads the American League in homers and is fourth in runs scored. With a .310 average, 14 HR and 29 RBI, Jones has matured into one of the leading sluggers in baseball.

5. Edwin Encarnacion: Toronto Blue Jays

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    When the 2012 season started, fans in Toronto expected that slugger Jose Bautista would be the leader of the Blue Jays offense. However, it's been Edwin Encarnacion leading the attack.

    With Bautista getting off to a slow start, Encarnacion carried the offense, hitting .271 with 13 HR and 34 RBI through the team's first 41 games.

    Bautista could very well heat up and end up being the driving force behind the Blue Jays offense, but Encarnacion has certainly done his part thus far.

4. Matt Kemp: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Even a strained hamstring that ended Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp's consecutive games played streak at 399 hasn't kept him from being at or near the top of most offensive categories in the National League.

    Before his balky hamstring sidelined him last week, Kemp was hitting .359 with 12 HR and 28 RBI, with a 1.173 OPS and .727 slugging percentage that still lead the NL.

    Kemp was clearly slowed in his last few games by his hamstring, so expect him to once again put it in Beast Mode upon his return.

3. Carlos Beltran: St. Louis Cardinals

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    When right fielder Carlos Beltran signed a two-year, $26 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, he was expected to pitch in to replace the offense lost by the departure of Albert Pujols.

    After 40 games, Beltran has done all that and more.

    Despite missing time last week with a sore right knee, Beltran was hitting .298 with 13 HR, 32 RBI, a 1.036 OPS and a .636 slugging percentage.

    Beltran's performance has been instrumental in leading a Cardinals offense that leads the league in several offensive categories and has them in first place in the NL Central Division.

2. David Wright: New York Mets

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    It might be a little early yet to talk about a hitter threatening to become the first batter to hit .400 since Ted Williams back in 1941, but New York Mets third baseman David Wright certainly has people talking already.

    At the quarter pole, Wright is hitting a robust .409 with a .510 on-base percentage, both of which lead the majors.

    While it may be a stretch to think that Wright can threaten the ever-elusive .400 mark, Mets fans are certainly having fun watching.

Josh Hamilton: Texas Rangers

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    In looking at the performance of Josh Hamilton so far in 2012 and his No. 1 ranking on this list, one only has to look at the statistical leader boards to realize why.

    Hamilton leads the majors in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases and his .384 batting average is tops in the American League.

    Otherworldly would be an apt word to describe Hamilton's first 40 games, and without a doubt, he is the leading hitter in Major League Baseball.


    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.