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The Most Surprising Players In Baseball

As we move into the second half of the season, Josh Helmuth looks at who's been the most astonishing so far in 2012.

You can count on it as much as death and taxes; every year there are a few guys that come out of nowhere, taking the baseball world by storm.
Remember Chris Shelton's nine home runs in the first 13 games of the season back in 2006? No? How about Jose Bautista coming out of oblivion to jack 54 home runs in 2010 when his previous season career high was only 16?

My point: some of these guys are for real, while others could be forgotten by Labor Day. So who's legit and who's a poser? That's for you to decide.

Mike Trout – OF – LAA
When is the last time we've seen a rookie with this much impact? Ken Griffey Jr. possibly? The kid has been surreal. He's tied for the Major League lead in stolen bases with 30, leads the American League in average at .348 and fifth in the AL in runs scored. And oh ya, he has 12 home runs. If the MVP voting started today, Trout would be in talks with Josh Hamilton for the crown. He's only 20-years-old, which means this could only be the beginning.

Edwin Encarnacion – 3B, DH, 1B – Tor
Matthew Berry has been praising this guy for years — calling him his eventual 'fantasy Kryptonite' — considering his annual fail to meet expectations. Known throughout his career of being an incredibly streaky player, he's finally put it together in 2012. As of July 17, he has 25 home runs, 62 RBI and is hitting .296. His career high for home runs in a season is only 26 — which he is obviously sure to impressively surpass — and in that 2008 season in which he did so, he only hit .251.

Carlos Ruiz – C – Phi
Give it up for Mr. Ruiz. This guy has put together a couple decent seasons, but has exploded in 2012, earning his first All-Star appearance. Last year he hit six home runs with a .283 average. This season he already has 14 home runs and is raking with an average of .353

R.A. Dickey, SP – NY Mets
Speaking of a guy that's put together decent stretches only to dominate in 2012. Dickey is a knuckle baller that is attempting to make history, as he could become the first pitcher of his kind to win the Cy Young Award. Not even ranked as a top 200 player in fantasy, Dickey has proved doubters wrong this year with his 2.66 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 127 strikeouts in 125 innings of play. Batters are only hitting .211 against him this year.

James McDonald, SP – Pirates
The Pirates actually have a shot to make the playoffs for the first time in nearly 20 years — and this guy has a lot to do with it. The 27-year-old flashed signs of promise last year, but in 2012 has exploded with an ERA .259, garnering nine wins for Pittsburgh. As of the middle of July, McDonald is the No. 9 ranked starting pitcher in all of fantasy baseball.

Chris Capuano – SP – Dodgers
Once a dominant starter for the Brewers, this 34-year-old is putting it all together after years of injury plagued seasons. The Dodgers took a chance on him this off-season and so far it's paying off tremendously. In 118 innings, Capuano has a 2.75 ERA and is at an all-time career high of 8.66 K's per nine innings.

Josh Helmuth is the editor and lead baseball writer for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JHelmuth or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.

Photo Credit: AP