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American League 'All-Surprise' Team

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

Edwin Encarnacion

To get you in that "All-Star" frame of mind, we're going to be naming a series of ad-hoc All-Star teams in the coming days. Today's flavor? It's the American League "All-Surprise" team. In this instance, we mean pleasant surprises -- those players assumed to be past their primes or not yet ready or already type-cast for our convenience who are defying expectations in positive ways.

C - Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox

"Salty" has shown some pop in past seasons, but this year he's on pace for 31 homers despite not having logged a qualifying number of plate appearances.

1B - Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays

Encarnacion has long been a threat to hit the ball out of the park (in 2008, for instance, he tallied 28 homers for the Reds), but this season he's on another plane. He's hitting .291/.373/.572, and he ranks fifth in the AL in home runs and total bases.

2B - Jeff Keppinger, Rays

Keppinger has just 120 plate appearances on the season, but injuries have pressed him into a regular role of late. The small sample size is certainly at work, but a slash line of .322/.363/.435 is impressive.

SS - Alcides Escobar, Royals

We know Escobar is an elite defensive shortstop, but in previous seasons he's been woefully unproductive at the plate. In 2012, however, he 's hitting .310/.353/.417.

3B - Trevor Plouffe, Twins

Only briefly, back in the minors, did Plouffe show any hints of the power he's flashed this season. Presently, he's slugging .541, and he has 16 homers. Suffice it to say, that's not what we expected from Plouffe.

LF - Mark Trumbo, Angels

Trumbo's power has always been there, but this season his offensive game is much, much more well rounded than in seasons past. He's batting .313 and leading the AL in OPS. Never before has Trumbo shown the ability to get on base, but he's doing just that.

CF - Mike Trout, Angels

It's long been apparent that the 20-year-old Trout would one day do great things, but did anyone outside the Trout family think he would contend for the AL MVP this season? So much, so fast.

RF - Alex Rios, White Sox

The Sox still owe Rios, oh, some $33 million and change over the life of his puzzling deal, but this season he's surprisingly giving them value on the bucks. An OPS of .833 plus 13 steals in a down year for offense? Few suspected Rios was capable of that anymore.

DH - Adam Dunn, White Sox

Dunn was done, no? After last season's miseries, did you expect Dunn to be an All-Star in 2012? He's batting just .210, but 24 homers and 64 walks more than make up for that.

SP 1 - Jake Peavy, White Sox

Peavy can keep runs off the board with the best of them, but his problem has been staying healthy (he hasn't reached 200 innings since 2007). In 2012, however, Peavy ranks second in the AL in innings, and he leads the majors in complete games.

SP 2 - Jason Hammel, Orioles

Sure, it's always nice to get a ticket out of Coors Field, but not many thought Hammel was an ace in disguise. So far, though, he's pitched like an ace in 2012.

Setup man - Scott Downs, Angels

Downs, age 36, has been on a nice run since 2007, but … this? In 26.0 innings this season, he's given up exactly one earned run. He's been almost as good as …

Closer - Ernesto Frieri, Angels

Since being acquired from the Padres in early May, Frieri has given up exactly zero runs. The hard-throwing right-hander has pitched well since arriving in the majors, but, quite obviously, no one expected him to go more than two months without allowing the opposition to score.

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