Bryan LaHair and Lance Lynn Lead Top 20 Fantasy Baseball Surprises

Zach ThompsonContributor IMay 4, 2012

Bryan LaHair and Lance Lynn Lead Top 20 Fantasy Baseball Surprises

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    Just over a month into the 2012 MLB season, there's been plenty of drama, excitement and surprises for fantasy baseball owners.

    The biggest surprise has been the disappointment of the rebuilt Angels; specifically, the homerless streak of Albert Pujols to open the year. Despite that, there's been plenty of positive developments as well.

    Here's the top 20 fantasy baseball surprises who have had breakout months to open the year. Many of these players started the year on waiver wires in fantasy baseball leagues and could have been a part of your team. Hopefully you acted fast and snatched them up.

    If not, check your waiver wire and make sure to add them right away if you still can.

    All stats updated through May 4.

20. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

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    20. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

    Altuve has hit among the league leaders at his position this year. He's just outside the Kinsler-Pedroia-Cano triumvirate atop the 2B pyramid. He's fourth in the NL in batting average at .358 with a home run, four stolen bases, 10 RBI and 16 runs scored.

19. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF, New York Mets

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    19. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF, New York Mets

    Nieuwenhuis has taken the Big Apple by storm and has helped fill in the gaps left by multiple injuries to the Mets outfield. The SoCal native is batting .310 on the season with two home runs, eight RBI, a stolen base and four doubles. He's bounced around the Mets lineup, but has found a home on many fantasy teams.

18. Jon Jay, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

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    18. Jon Jay, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

    Jay has been in and out of the lineup for the defending World champs, but in his 18 games he's hitting at .415 with an OPS of 1.011. He's added two homers and three stolen bases while playing superb defense in center field.

17. Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers

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    17. Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers

    Jackson was a late-round flier mainly because of upgrades to the lineup he hits atop. He has shown himself to be a worthy pickup in his own right, even though the Tigers haven't yet hit full throttle.

    Jackson is batting .311 from the leadoff spot with four stolen bases in four attempts, three home runs, nine RBI and 18 runs scored. Most surprising is his 12 walks and 20 strikeouts for a 3:5 ratio (better than 1:2), compared to last year's 56:181 (almost 1:3).

16. Mike Aviles, SS, Boston Red Sox

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    16. Mike Aviles, SS, Boston Red Sox

    Boston fans were upset when the Red Sox moved Marco Scutaro and decided to go with Aviles, but he's stepped up since stepping in for Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot.

    So far this year, Aviles is batting .281 with five homers and 19 RBI to go with three stolen bases and 19 runs scored (fourth in the AL).

15. Joe Saunders, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    15. Joe Saunders, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Saunders was a non-tender who returned to Arizona and has been the ace of their staff in the early going. He's thrown a complete game shutout against the Marlins and combined with his four other starts has a 0.96 WHIP, a 1.24 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 36.1 innings.

14. Ryan Sweeney, OF, Boston Red Sox

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    14. Ryan Sweeney, OF, Boston Red Sox

    Sweeney was considered an extra piece in the Josh Reddick-for-Andrew Bailey trade, but has nicely filled in the Ellsbury-Crawford vacuum that was the Red Sox outfield.

    He's settled into batting second and has a league-leading 12 doubles while batting .361 (fourth in the AL). He's driven in eight runs while scoring seven.

13. A.J. Pierzynski, C, Chicago White Sox

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    13. A.J. Pierzynski, C, Chicago White Sox

    Pierzynski's average has come back to earth at .284, but the White Sox catcher already has five home runs after hitting eight all of last year. He has driven in 18 runs in his first 21 games.

12. Jed Lowrie, SS, Houston Astros

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    12. Jed Lowrie, SS, Houston Astros

    After starting the season on the DL, Lowrie has exploded off of it and is hitting .329 through his first 18 games. He's hit three homers while driving in 12, scoring 11 and walking 12 times, bringing his OBP to a robust .427.

11. Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles

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    11. Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles

    While the potential has always been there, Davis had been an offensive disappointment prior to this year. He's opened 2012 with five home runs and 13 RBI in his first 23 games while scoring 13 runs and hitting at a .316 clip.

    Davis' career average is .256 and it remains to be seen if he can maintain his improvement, but either way, he's emerged as a solid option in the O's lineup.

10. Drew Smyly, SP, Detroit Tigers

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    10. Drew Smyly, SP, Detroit Tigers

    The former South Carolina Gamecock was pressed into action after Doug Fister left his first start of the season, and has answered the bell with four solid starts. He's pitched only 22 innings in those four games, but has only allowed three earned runs (all on homers), eight walks and 18 hits for a WHIP of 1.18, with his ERA at 1.23.

    Smyly is only 1-0, but he's kept the Tigers in every game he's pitched, which is impressive for a rookie who arrived ahead of schedule.

9. Angel Pagan, OF, San Francisco Giants

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    9. Angel Pagan, OF, San Francisco Giants

    Pagan was swapped this offseason for the oft-injured Andres Torres and has been the only consistent part of the Giants lineup to this point in the season.

    Pagan has a league-high 17-game hitting streak while raising his average to .250 with four homers, eight RBI, 13 runs scored and two stolen bases.

8. Bartolo Colon, SP, Oakland Athletics

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    8. Bartolo Colon, SP, Oakland Athletics

    Colon wins the "he's still in the league?" award for coming out of nowhere to pitch effectively in this his 15th season in the Majors. He's 3-2, but has an ERA of 2.53 with a 0.94 WHIP while proving to be an innings eater for the A's. He's pitched 42.2 innings in his six starts.

7. Vance Worley, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

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    7. Vance Worley, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

    With Cliff Lee on the shelf and Roy Halladay inconsistent, it's been Worley who's stepped up for the Phillies. He's pitched at least six full innings in all five of his starts, only once giving up more than one run.

    Worley's ERA is 1.97 with a WHIP of 1.19 and 32 strikeouts in 32 innings. He's in the top 10 in the NL in K's, but it is worth noting he's faced some of the weaker offenses in the NL as well.

6. Rafael Furcal, SS, St. Louis Cardinals

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    6. Rafael Furcal, SS, St. Louis Cardinals

    Not many people noticed when the Cardinals resigned Furcal, but he started the season on fire for St. Louis. He's slowed a little, but continues to anchor their lineup from the leadoff spot.

    Furcal is currently fourth in the NL in runs scored (19) and sixth in average (.330). He has one homer, 12 RBI and four stolen bases. He's become a top-five offensive SS when most thought he was done after he left the Dodgers last year.

5. Edwin Encarnacion, DH, Toronto Blue Jays

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    5. Edwin Encarnacion, DH, Toronto Blue Jays

    While he didn't come from nowhere like some of the others on this list, not many saw such a productive season for Encarnacion in his first season as the Blue Jays' full-time DH.

    After a string of five home runs in six games, Encarnacion entered Thursday's action leading the league in homers with nine and second in RBI with 24. He's played five games at first base but mostly has been focused on nothing but hitting at the DH spot.

    His average is .307 and he's added four stolen bases, eight walks and eight doubles.

4. Jason Hammel, SP, Baltimore Orioles

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    4. Jason Hammel, SP, Baltimore Orioles

    Hammel started the season 3-0 before losing his first decision to the Yankees on April 30th. His first five starts have still been eye-opening as he escaped the confines of Coors Field and the Rockies.

    Hammel is 3-1 with an ERA of 1.97, a WHIP of 1.03 and 30 strikeouts in 32 innings.

3. Ross Detwiler, SP, Washington Nationals

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    3. Ross Detwiler, SP, Washington Nationals

    Expected by many to not make the Nationals rotation, Detwiler forced the Nats to send John Lannan to the Minors (which Lannan's reportedly still not happy about).

    Detwiler has proven the Nats right so far with five solid starts to begin the season. He has allowed more than one earned run only once, and that was on a two-run homer to Andre Ethier in Los Angeles. After winning Thursday, he moved to 3-1 with a WHIP just under 1.00 and an ERA of 1.59 in his first 28.1 innings, while striking out 21.

2. Bryan LaHair, 1B, Chicago Cubs

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    2. Bryan LaHair, 1B, Chicago Cubs

    LaHair has anchored the Cubs' offense with seven home runs and 16 RBI while batting .388.

    His homers have come in bunches, with three from April 22 to 25 and three more in three consecutive games April 30, May 2 and May 3.

    LaHair was expected to be part of a platoon and possibly replaced by Anthony Rizzo, but expect him to stay in the middle of the Cubs' lineup after his breakout month.

1. Lance Lynn, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

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    1. Lance Lynn, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

    Lynn leads the NL in wins with five in his first five starts. He's held opponents to an average of .167 with a 1.60 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP.

    Lynn has pitched into the sixth in every game and has 30 strikeouts in his 33.2 innings. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that he's been the best pitcher in the National League after starting all of two games last season and going largely undrafted.

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