MLB: 8 Players with Most Unexpected Home Run Production

Tyler Essig@cashmoney2238Contributor IIIJune 21, 2012

MLB: 8 Players with Most Unexpected Home Run Production

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    So far in the 2012 Major League Baseball season, it has been yet another year dominated by pitching. In mid June, MLB fans have already been treated to five no hitters. This includes one perfect game, one game in which six pitchers combined for a no hitter and the first no hitter in New York Mets history.

    With all the focus on the feats reached by the pitchers, many hitters are being overlooked.

    Three of the most surprising story lines are Derek Jeter leading the AL in hits with 90, Paul Konerko leading in batting average at .357 and the return of the Adam Dunn, who leads the MLB with 23 bombs.

    This slideshow is made up of eight players who never had home run potential prior to this season. They're made up of young players that could be just reaching their potential as a power hitter and aging players that have seen one last power surge through the first couple months of the 2012 MLB season.

Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto

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    Of the eight players on this list, Toronto Blue Jays slugger, Edwin Encarnacion, has been the only player to show any type of home run potential in the major leagues.

    Back in 2008, Encarnacion went yard a career high 26 times. The only other time he reached 20 homers was in 2010, when he hit 21 in his first full season with Toronto.

    This season Encarnacion has exploded for 20 home runs in his first 66 games, including a recent power surge in which he has hit three homers in his last three games.

    His home run total this season is good enough to put him in fifth place among all American League players and second on his team, only behind reigning home run king Jose Bautista

    Bautista and Encarnacion's power have given the Jays a great 1-2 punch in the middle of their order, returning Toronto to relevance in the always tough AL East. 

Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota

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    Since the 16th of May, Minnesota's Trevor Plouffe has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball, hitting 13 home runs and homering five times in a four-game stretch from June 12-15.

    What is most surprising about the 26-year-old's home run total this year is his at-bats per home run rate. It has taken him only 155 ABs to get to hit 14 home runs, which gives him a AB/HR rate of 11.1. That is better than proven sluggers such as Jose Bautista (11.2), Curtis Granderson (12.6) and David Ortiz (14.4), and behind only Adam Dunn (10.3) and Josh Hamilton (10.8). 

    In Plouffe's first two MLB seasons, he managed to hit only 10 home runs in 327 at-bats, and in seven seasons in the minor leagues, he never hit more than 15 home runs.

    Twins fans are now hoping that Plouffe is finally reaching the potential he showed as a former first-round pick.

Jed Lowrie, Houston

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    Jed Lowrie is finally starting to fulfill his potential after being a first-round pick in the 2005 MLB draft.

    Now that Lowrie is getting to play everyday, his power numbers have also taken a step up.

    The 28-year-old has already hit a career high 13 home runs through his first 220 at-bats of the season. This total is good enough to rank him seventh in the NL in homers and eighth in AB/HR (16.9). 

    He currently ranks as the home run leader among shortstops, currently holding the lead over established power hitters such as JJ Hardy (11) and Troy Tulowitzki (eight).

Dayan Viciedo, Chicago White Sox

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    At the age of 23, the White Sox up-and-comer is starting to show the power potential he had in the minor leagues.

    Viciedo hit 12 home runs in his first minor league season, and then followed up that effort with a pair of 20 home run seasons to pave his road to Chicago's South Side.. Many White Sox fans eagerly awaited Dayan's major league debut.

    In his first 206 career at-bats, Dayan hit only six home runs while striking out 48 times in 2010 and 2011.

    Now in 2012, the young Cuban has doubled that total with 12 dingers in 211 at-bats. He benefited mostly from a scalding hot month of May: in only 97 at-bats, he batted .351 with eight homers and 24 RBI.

    Many people view that as the type of hitting potential that Viciedo has for the future.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston

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    Saltalamacchia is yet another player on this list that was a former first-round pick. Like the others, he has spent most of his career as an average MLB player.

    Saltalamacchia has seen his home run total rise ever since coming over in a trade between the Rangers and the Red Sox in 2010. Last year, the Red Sox catcher reached double-digit home runs (16) for the first time since his rookie season (11).

    Jarrod has already hit 12 home runs in half the at-bats that he had all of last season, giving him a career best AB/HR rate of 14.3. This is higher than his teammate David Ortiz (14.4) and fellow AL East slugger Adam Jones (15.1).

AJ Pierzynski, Chicaho White Sox

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    At the age 35, AJ is the oldest player to make this list. He also has the most surprising home run total of anyone on this list.

    In the past two seasons, Pierzynski hit a total of 17 home runs in 938 at-bats. In 2012, it has taken him only 217 at-bats to hit 12 home runs.

    Since becoming a full-time starting catcher in 2001, Pierzynski has averaged 11 home runs and 472 at-bats each season. He has a career high 17.8 AB/HR rate this season, beating out his previous high of 25.6 when he was 28 years old.

    The veteran catcher's power surge ranks him second among MLB catchers in bombs, only behind the recently mentioned Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He also ranks above last year's leader, Mike Napoli, who has hit 11 homers so far. 

    What is most surprising is that Pierzynski has not seen his strikeout total dip much at all. With an 8.1 AB/SO rate, AJ ranks sixth in the AL in that category. 

Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians

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    After being selected in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians, the up-and-coming second baseman spent only three seasons in the minor leagues before being called up last season.

    In his short stint with the Indians in 2011, Jason hit seven bombs in just over 100 at-bats.

    So far this season, he has gone yard 11 times in 272 at-bats.

    After hitting only three home runs in April, Kipnis has heated up to the tune of eight bombs since May 3rd. This includes a two home run game against Chicago's Jake Peavy and his first grand slam off of Minnesota's Carl Pavano.

    In his first full major league season, Jason is tied for second with Dan Uggla among second baseman in home runs, and is behind only Robinson Cano, who has 14 jacks. 

Ian Desmond, Washington

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    Despite never being a prospect with much home run potential, Ian Desmond has started the year out among the leaders in home runs at the shortstop position (trailing only Jed Lowry of the Astros).

    Ian never hit more than 13 home runs in a season during his six years in the minors, and averaged less than 10 over his minor league career.

    As a rookie in 2010, Desmond hit 10 home runs in 525 at-bats. The following year, he hit only eight home runs in 584 at-bats.

    This year he has already surpassed his career high with 11 homers in 279 at-bats. That gives him a 25.1 AB/HR rate, which is much better than the 73.0 and 52.5 rates he had in 2011 and 2010, respectively.