Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The 2012 season provided a shake-up to one of the more predictable positions in fantasy baseball: first base.
That's evident on our top 10 fantasy first basemen rankings, which are presented below.
While the list has been dominated by the same three or four players for the past few years, injuries, crippling slumps and breakout performances by others knocked some mainstays down or off the rankings entirely this season.
Let's take a look at those rankings now (as a rule of thumb, I have only included players who played the majority of their games in the field at first base, so stars like Miguel Cabrera were disqualified despite possessing first- base eligibility).
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays - Encarnacion has been known as "E5" for his uneven play at third base (E5 being the scorer's mark for an error by the third baseman), but we might want to start calling him E-40. As Toronto's primary DH and part-time first baseman, he blasted 42 homers, drove in 110 runs and even hit .280. His .941 OPS, 93 runs, 13 steals and 84 walks were all career highs. Encarnacion belted at least five homers in all six months and seven or more in four.
Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers - Fielder's homer total predictably declined as he moved from Miller Park to spacious Comerica but he was still the second best fantasy first baseman this season. He played 162 games for the second straight season -- he's played 157 or more games in seven straight -- and turned in 30 homers, 108 RBIs and a .313/.412/.528 slash.
Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals - For five years Butler demonstrated warning track power but never hit more than 21 homers in a season. In 2012, that all changed as the big DH and part-time first baseman started flexing his muscles. Butler hit .313 with 29 homers, 107 RBIs and an .882 OPS this season, setting career highs in the latter three categories.
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels - Pujols' first year with the Angels was actually his worst statistical season but it still ended up as a solid one for fantasy owners. Though he didn't hit his first home run until May 6, the first baseman hit .305 with 42 doubles, 30 homers, 100 RBIs and a .934 OPS in his final 127 games. Overall, he finished with a .285 average, 30 round-trippers, 105 RBIs and an .859 OPS in 154 games.
Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks - A popular sleeper pick after hitting eight homers in 48 games last season, Goldschmidt looked like a bust when he batted .193 with just one home run in April. But the youngster turned things around quickly and hit .314 or better in four of the final five months. He ended up with a great all-around line, hitting .286 with 43 doubles, 20 home runs, 82 RBIs, 82 runs scored, 18 stolen bases and an .850 OPS.
Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals - A notorious second-half hitter, LaRoche finally got off to a good start and ended up having his strongest season as a pro. After belting 15 homers and batting .255 in the first half, LaRoche slugged 18 bombs and hit .287 in the second half, including .327 with nine homers in the critical month of September, en route to .271, 33 homers, 100 RBIs and an .853 OPS.
Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers - Hart may not be Prince Fielder but he stepped in and did a decent impression of him at first base this season after Fielder's replacement Mat Gamel suffered a season ending injury. Hart matched Fielder's homer total with 30, had 83 RBIs, scored 91 runs and hit .270.
Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox/Los Angeles Dodgers - Gonzalez had a pretty inconsistent season so you might consider him a massive failure or resounding success depending on when you owned him. He hit just .257 with five home runs and a .709 OPS in the first 67 games of the season, .370 with 10 long balls and a .992 OPS in the next 53 and .208 with one homer and a .584 OPS in the 24 games after that. Gonzalez then hit .436 with two homers and a 1.104 OPS in the final 10 games of the season, likely deciding more than a few championship weeks. Overall, he hit .299 with 18 homers, 108 RBIs and an .806 OPS in 159 games.
Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals - Craig only played 119 games but still managed to hit 22 home runs with 92 RBIs and 76 runs scored to go along with a .307 average and .876 OPS. Craig would have ranked even higher on this list if he didn't miss so much time due to injuries -- his averages translate to 29 homers, 125 RBIs and 103 runs scored in 162 games.
Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles - Fantasy owners who stuck with Davis through his massive slumps from June through August got a .326 average, 15 homers, 29 RBIs and a 1.104 OPS in the final 36 games of the season. That surge allowed Davis to finish with a .270 average, 33 homers, 85 RBIs and an .827 OPS.
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