Bryce Harper and Other Pleasant Surprises from MLB's Early Going
Officially two months into the season, let's now look back at the first 50 games and see who has started off the 2012 season strong. One common trait amongst the following guys—all were not contributors to their teams last season.
These are the players responsible for their teams improved records, and all three will need to avoid a drop off in the pace they have established if their teams want to succeed in October.
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Melky Cabrera, who the Giants acquired in their November trade involving Jonathan Sanchez, has started the year hotter than the sun as he is batting .371 through Sunday—nearly 100 points higher than his career batting average.
After ending the season over .300 for the first time last year with the Kansas City Royals, Cabrera has carried that momentum into the 2012 season and is a big reason why the second-place Giants are maintaining a steady pace behind the league-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
Even more impressive though, is that Cabrera leads the league in batting despite being part of a relatively weak offensive unit. Due to injuries, guys like Pablo Sandoval and Freddy Sanchez have been sidelined and Cabrera has been left with less protection in the heart of the order.
As the Giants head towards the All-Star break, they will continue to ride the hot bat of the "Melk Man".
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Gio Gonzalez, who like Cabrera was acquired in an offseason trade, has quickly won over many fans in Washington because of his stellar start to the 2012 season.
Gonzalez, who is 7-2 in 10 starts on the year, leads the National League in strikeouts with 84. After four years in Oakland, Gonzalez is benefiting greatly from the move to the National League where many opponents are facing him for the first time.
Playing in arguably the most competitive division, the Nationals will have the opportunity to make some noise in September if Gonzalez (along with Stephen Strasburg) step up to the challenge and have Cy Young-candidate types of seasons.
Regardless of how they finish this year though, the Nationals appear to be headed in the right direction for the future behind young pitching studs and an equally as important young offensive threat.
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Although not holding any league leading statistics, don't let the .288 average fool you—Bryce Harper has started the year exceptionally well.
Harper, who was the first overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, earned an opportunity to the Bigs during late April, and has seen few off days since.
His presence has helped the Nationals jump out to one of their best starts in years as they are currently tied for first place in the NL East with a 30-22 record.
Harper, who is still only 19, has spent the season adapting to his new role as an outfielder (he was drafted as a catcher). That said, the transition has been rather smooth as Harper is performing better defensively than most would have expected. Along with that, he handled an on and then off-field situation with Cole Hamels as beautifully as possible—a sign of maturity.
Can Harper keep it up throughout the year? Time will tell.
Unfortunately, the dog days of August will most likely catch up to him as an 162-game season takes time to learn. With the raw talent he has though, it's only a matter of time before Harper is putting up All-Star numbers.