Second base boasts two top fantasy hitters

Second base boasts two top fantasy hitters

Historically, second basemen have not been coveted for their offense, but that's not the case in 2015. Two of the best hitters in the Major Leagues play the position.

Fantasy baseball owners can bolster their lineups with the top talents here, but there's still value to be found in a deep group of second basemen.

TIER 1: Jose Altuve, Robinson Cano

It might be difficult to determine which player should be drafted first, but owners can't go wrong with either.

Altuve looks to build on a monster 2014 season, in which he led all of baseball with a .341 average and 225 hits, while finishing tops in the American League with 56 stolen bases. Those gaudy numbers will be tough to repeat this year, and Altuve may take a step back, but he's still a great fantasy asset. He had just 15 steals after the All-Star break last year, which could be an indication he will run less going forward. His power numbers are projected to decrease, but Altuve is a great contact hitter and should contend for the batting crown again.

Cano has batted over .300 in six straight seasons, and eight of the last nine overall. His power numbers were down last year -- his first in Seattle -- but Cano should have better production this year thanks to a deeper Mariners lineup. Playing half of his games in spacious Safeco Field is not ideal, but Cano has the talent and sweet swing to still produce at a high level. He's projected for 20 home runs and 86 RBIs.

TIER 2: Ian Kinsler, Jason Kipnis, Dee Gordon

There are a number of things to like about each player in this group.

Looking for stolen bases? Gordon should deliver. How about a strong track record? Kinsler has it covered. A bounce-back candidate? Kipnis fits the bill.

Gordon moved to Miami after being acquired from Los Angeles, where he led the Majors with 64 stolen bases and 12 triples in 2014. The speedster is expected to be the leadoff hitter for the Marlins, so he should have plenty of opportunities to put up numbers. He's a virtual lock to be among the league leaders in steals. There are some red flags, though, as Gordon reached base at a .300 clip in the second half last year with the Dodgers.

Kinsler owns a lifetime .273 average over nine seasons and has played at least 155 games in three of the last four years, so count on his production to be there again in '15. In what's becoming a trend at the position, Kinsler saw his numbers dip after a great first half last season. He should rebound from a career-low .307 on-base percentage and 0.4 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Kinsler is projected for 16 homers, 78 RBIs, 92 runs and 15 steals.

Kipnis saw his home run total fall to six last season, but his 25 doubles show the power is still there and he's projected for 14 homers in 2015. Of course, his decreased production in '14 could be a result of an oblique injury that lingered throughout the majority of the season. If Kipnis is healthy, he should revert back to his form from '13, when he had a breakout season with a .284 average, 17 homers, 84 RBIs and 30 steals.

TIER 3: Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier, Dustin Pedroia, Kolten Wong, Howie Kendrick

There are plenty of solid options remaining in this tier, with plenty of offense still available.

Dozier had a special season in 2014, which makes for a tough decision for fantasy owners in '15. He led all second basemen in runs (112) and walks (89) last year, and tied for first with 23 home runs. Dozier had never put up numbers like that before, but he's entering only his fourth season in the Majors. It won't be easy to repeat that production, but he's projected for 20 homers and a .751 OPS.

Pedroia says he's healthy after dealing with multiple injuries to his left hand over the last two years, so he could return to form in 2015, which would be welcome news for fantasy owners and the Red Sox. He's projected to raise his average back near .290 with double-digit home runs and stolen bases. The Sox have a revamped lineup and should be contenders this year, which should help Pedroia rebound from a forgettable year.

Wong enters his second full season after a strong rookie campaign. He's been known for his bat since the Cardinals made him a first-round pick in 2011, and it's a good bet Wong continues to improve in his sophomore season. A left-handed hitter, Wong should avoid a platoon situation after hitting .315 against southpaws last year. He's projected for career highs across the board: .260 average, 70 runs, 13 homers, 64 RBIs and 25 steals.

Murphy followed up a great 2013 season with numbers more in line with his career averages in '14. Still, he's been very consistent throughout his career and has at least 37 doubles in four of his last five seasons. Another left-handed hitter, Murphy has hit at least .286 in four straight years. Look for that trend to continue this season. He's also projected to see an increase in homers, runs, steals and RBIs over his numbers from a year ago.

Kendrick makes the switch from the Angels to the Dodgers, who will count on him to pick up some of the slack offensively after much roster turnover. His .293 average last season was third among second basemen, behind Altuve and Cano. Kendrick has sort of flown under the radar with the Halos, but he's on a bigger stage with the Dodgers. He's a consistent and safe pick, projected to maintain his career .292 average with double-digit homers and steals.

TIER 4: Neil Walker, Ben Zobrist, Aaron Hill, Brandon Phillips, Jedd Gyorko, Scooter Gennett, Chase Utley, Omar Infante

Fantasy owners can still find good value deep at the position in the draft.

Walker had solid power numbers in 2014, tying for first among second basemen with 23 homers and ranking third with an .809 OPS. Health has been an issue with Walker, and he's played fewer than 140 games in three straight seasons. The power is a plus, though, and he's projected for 20 dingers this year.

Utley also has some pop, and playing half of his games at Citizens Bank Park certainly helps. The veteran wore down toward the end of last season, but the talent is still there. Projections have Utley around 11 homers with a .272 average and 64 RBIs.

Zobrist typically gets on base at a high clip and has versatility as an option in the outfield. He'll be in a new environment this season in Oakland after spending his entire career with the Rays. Zobrist is a durable player who should put up decent numbers, but don't expect him to show the 20-homer power of a few years ago.

Phillips, Infante and Hill have all played at least a decade in the big leagues, so they are relatively safe picks. But owners looking for a breakout candidate might want to take a flyer on Gennett and Gyorko, who each enter their third season in the Majors.

Gennett has a .300 average in 704 career plate appearances and had 31 doubles last year, so the potential is there. However, his playing time is limited by a platoon situation with the Brewers. Gennett struggled to a .128 average against left-handed pitching in 2014.

Gyorko had 23 homers as a rookie. But he fell into a sophomore slump in 2014, which could be attributed to injuries after missing time with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. The Padres have an improved lineup, which should boost his production this year. Gyorko is projected for 20 homers and 69 RBIs.

Phillips will be looking to bounce back after a thumb injury limited him to 121 games last year. He's no longer a threat to steal 15 or more bases, but Phillips still has some pop and is projected for 15 homers. Health will be the big question going forward.

Infante hit just .223 in the second half last year, which factored into his lowest season average since 2005 (.252). His power numbers were also down, and they aren't expected to increase this year. But Infante is projected to raise his average back near his career mark of .276.

Hill was a victim of bad luck last year, as evidenced by his .276 average on balls in play. He plays his home games at hitter-friendly Chase Field and should see his power number rise in 2015. He's projected for 15 homers and 64 RBIs.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.