MLB: Most Surprising Player on Each NL Team

John McGonigalCorrespondent IIJune 22, 2012

MLB: Most Surprising Player on Each NL Team

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    Raise your hand if you could have told me who Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn was before this season. 

    If you raised your hand, congratulations, you're probably a Cardinal fan. 

    If not, it's okay, you're just like the rest of us. 

    Every year, ball clubs come into the season with a solid idea on who will produce for them.

    However, every team also has at least one guy who comes out of nowhere and plays like a five-time All-Star.

    The Cardinals aren't the only ones who had a surprising player step up for them this season. 

    Let's take a gander at a player on each NL team that has surprisingly pleased their fans, teammates, and manager so far in 2012. 

Arizona Diamondbacks: Wade Miley

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    While he made eight appearances and gave a mediocre performance for the Diamondbacks in 2011, left-handed starting pitcher Wade Miley has made his impact felt on the bump this year. 

    In 82.1 innings pitched, the southpaw has a 9-3 record, a team-best 2.19 ERA and 64 strikeouts. 

    Miley has pitched incredibly efficiently and seems like he pitches at his finest against the league's most challenging batting orders. 

    Throughout the year, he's been able to shut out teams like the Phillies and the Marlins, while allowing only one run to the Texas Rangers and in-division rival Dodgers. 

    If Miley continues to pitch like he's been doing, there's no reason the Diamondbacks should be written off in the NL West. 

Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman

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    After an alright 2011 season, first baseman Freddie Freeman started off this year as one of the hottest hitting players in the league and had some people whispering about an NL MVP campaign. 

    In the month of April, Freeman was hitting .273 with four homers and 18 RBI, along with a promising .489 slugging percentage. 

    While he's cooled off a bit due to nagging injuries, the first baseman came out of the gates on fire and if he can get back on track, Freeman will continue to be a helpful power threat in the Braves batting order.  

Chicago Cubs: Bryan LaHair

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    While the Cubs have been one of the worst teams in baseball so far this year, one bright spot for the Wrigley faithful has been right fielder Bryan LaHair. 

    After only playing 20 games for the Cubbies in 2011, LaHair has certainly seen an increased role in the lineup, and for good reason. 

    In 2012, the Worchester, MA native owns a .286 batting average, 13 HRs, and a .910 OPS— all of which lead the team. 

    Even though LaHair has been the subject of much trade talk, if the Cubs hold on to him they could have a productive, young player for years to come. 

Cincinnati Reds: Johnny Cueto

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    The Cincinnati Reds currently own first place in the NL Central and have had a fantastic year so far, with some of the credit going to the arm of Johnny Cueto,

    After a solid season last year, Cueto wasn't expected to be the big time pitcher for the Reds as their front office acquired coveted hurler Mat Latos from the Padres in the offseason. 

    However, Cueto has come out this season and proven that he is still the club's best pitcher. 

    Statistically, Cueto has the most wins (eight) and best ERA (2.38) on the team, along with a formidable 1.15 WHIP. 

Colorado Rockies: Tyler Colvin

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    From Dexter Fowler to Michael Cuddyer, the Rockies have had a few players step up for them this year, but no one has made their impact felt more than center fielder Tyler Colvin.

    The 26-year-old outfielder hasn't started every game for the Rockies this season, but he's proven that he deserves all the looks he gets. 

    Over a span of 51 games, Colvin is hitting .288 with seven homers and 23 RBI. 

    If the former Cub can continue his hot streak, there's no reason why the surprising outfielder shouldn't be in the batting order.  

Houston Astros: Jed Lowrie

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    When the Astros acquired Jed Lowrie this past offseason, they thought they would be getting a high-potential midfielder with above-average hitting capabilities.

    So far this season, Lowrie's potential is showing in a big way at the plate. 

    In 2012 the shortstop has hit .267 with a team-best 13 homers and 31 RBI.

    It's tough to find consistent shortstops who can hit the ball well across the field, but if Lowrie can grow on this recent success, the eventual AL team may have a keeper in the hole. 

Los Angeles Dodgers: Jerry Hairston Jr.

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    With a stunning 43-30 record, almost everything has gone right for the Dodgers this season. 

    However, they wouldn't have as many W's in the left column if it weren't for the unforeseen play of Jerry Hairston Jr.

    Granted, he isn't much of a home run threat (only one all season), but the all-around player can be credited with lifting the Dodgers at the plate while MVP candidate Matt Kemp has been hurt.

    On top of playing well in the field, Hairston Jr. has been dependable in the batter's box with his .311 batting average—second on the team to only Kemp.

    With Kemp nagged by injuries this season, the Dodgers will need consistent hitting from Hairston Jr. if they are going to stay atop the baseball world.  

Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton

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    Now we all know that Mike... I mean Giancarlo Stanton established himself last year as a deep ball threat and showed he was for real. 

    However, considering the limelight on newly acquired Jose Reyes, Stanton kept doing what he is capable of doing and at a high level to say the least. 

    In 2012, Stanton has showed once again that he is here to stay with 16 moon shots, 44 RBI, and a .352 OBP—all of which lead the Marlins.

Milwaukee Brewers: Jonathan Lucroy

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    One thing that's hard to come by in today's game of baseball is a catcher who can hit the ball for average and power, while not surrendering anything defensively. 

    That is exactly what the Brewers have gotten themselves with their backstop, Jonathan Lucroy. 

    With only three errors on the season, Lucroy has commanded the catcher position like a veteran and has a .991 fielding percentage to prove it. 

    At the plate, Lucroy leads the team with a .345 batting average and has raked in a solid showing of five home runs and 30 RBI. 

New York Mets: R.A. Dickey

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    Not enough can be said about the job that knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has done this year, and that's coming from a Phillies fan. 

    With the Mets surprisingly in second place in the NL East, Dickey has surprised as well, boasting a team-best 11-1 record, 2.00 ERA, and 103 strikeouts.

    Surprisingly, Dickey has pitched two consecutive one-hit complete games—something unheard of from a knuckleballer.  

    When on the bump this year, Dickey has simply made hitters look silly with that knuckleball and his production has prospered from it. 

    If the knuckleball can continue to work, we could see the next Tim Wakefield in the making in Flushing, NY.

Philadelphia Phillies: Carlos Ruiz

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    With the absence of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley due to injury, the Phillies' offense has struggled to gain any traction this year.

    Because of this ineptitude, they've provided their pitchers little or no run support and puts the team in last place of the NL East. 

    However, one surprising bright spot in the Phillies batting order has been catcher Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz. 

    Even though he's only third in the All-Star voting for NL catchers behind Yadier Molina and Buster Posey, Ruiz has improved significantly since last year. 

    So far in 2012, Chooch has hit for .348, nine home runs, and 39 RBI, and if he continues this pace he will at least double his production in past years. 

Pittsburgh Pirates: James McDonald

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    After posting a 9-9 record in 2011, starter James McDonald has been lights out for the Pirates this season on the bump. 

    Thus far the hurler owns a 2.19 ERA with 83 strikeouts and a 6-3 record. 

    Also, McDonald has had fewer batters reaching base safely (via hits, walks or being hit by a pitch) than innings pitched in eight starts this season. 

    With the Buccos in second place in the NL Central, McDonald's consistent and dominant pitching could be the factor that pushes them over the top into first place. 

    Also worth mentioning is reliever Jared Hughes. In 27 appearances for the Buccos, the 26-year-old has a 2.23 ERA coupled with a 1.21 WHIP in 36.1 innings of work.

San Diego Padres: Chase Headley

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    Even though he's been rumored as a trade option for many ball clubs, third baseman Chase Headley has performed valiantly for the Padres and has been one of the biggest surprises of the NL West. 

    Last season, Headley had only four home runs and 44 RBI despite hitting .289 in 113 ball games. 

    However, this season Headley has been one of the only sparks to the Padres' offense, belting seven dingers and 35 RBI, along with a .789 OPS and a .415 slugging percentage. 

    After years of anticipation for Headley's breakout season, he finally stepped up this year and the Padres would be smart to hold onto him, especially considering how difficult it is to find a reliable third basemen. 

San Francisco Giants: Melky Cabrera

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    Perhaps the biggest surprise of the National League that no one is talking about has been the breakout play of outfielder Melky Cabrera. 

    After stints with the Yankees, Braves, and Royals, the 27-year-old outfielder found a new home in San Francisco this past year and he's been making the most of the opportunity. 

    Not only does he own a .351 batting average, but also Cabrera leads the NL in hits (102) and has a .900 OPS. 

    Also, Cabrera has never come close to making an All-Star game, but that could change considering he's third in NL outfielder voting behind Matt Kemp and Carlos Beltran. 

St. Louis Cardinals: Lance Lynn

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    While Cabrera is a guy who has shocked people with his play this season, at least he has over seven years of MLB experience. 

    On the other hand, Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn is virtually a rookie, having started only two games for St. Louis last season.

    Despite the inexperience on the bump, Lynn has taken the NL by storm with an absurd 10-3 record and a 3.23 ERA.

    Lynn has been particularly good at punching out opposing hitters, averaging more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings.

    If the 25-year-old can somehow continue this pitching when ace Chris Carpenter finally recovers from injury, the Cardinals will have a feared rotation to say the least.  

Washington Nationals: Adam LaRoche

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    One word to describe Adam LaRoche is "solid."

    On four different occasions in his career the first baseman has smacked over 20 homers and five occasions where he's had over 80 RBI. 

    However, last season the 32-year-old only appeared in 43 games for the Nationals and mustered only three homers and 15 RBI due to season-ending surgery on his left shoulder. 

    Despite this, LaRoche has rocked the ball this season for 13 homers and 44 RBIs to help the Nationals to a first place showing in the NL East. 

    If he can continue this production, the Nationals will continue to be dangerous as the season rolls along.