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Fred Zinkie

Second to none: Altuve leads keystone ranks

Dependable 2B options abound for fantasy owners

Second to none: Altuve leads keystone ranks

At times one of the weakest fantasy positions, second base is currently enjoying a resurgence.

Featuring a large cast of productive options with a variety of skill sets, the keystone position has the necessary depth for fantasy owners to fill their second-base spot in the early or middle rounds of mixed-league drafts.

Full fantasy second basemen rankings

Tier 1: Jose Altuve

Not only did Altuve raise his power game to another level last season (career-high 24 home runs), but he also remained one of baseball's best contact hitters (.338 average). And though the Astros sparkplug finished with a full-season low in stolen bases (30), he still reached the 30-steal plateau for the fifth straight year -- something no other big leaguer has accomplished in that span. Able to offer stellar production across the board, Altuve is among the safest and most balanced first-round options at any position.

Safe first round fantasy picks

Tier 2: Robinson Cano, Rougned Odor, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier

The second tier offers four powerful options, with each coming off a career high in home runs.

After averaging 18 home runs and 80 RBIs during his initial two seasons with the Mariners, Cano hit 39 roundtrippers and finished as one of two second basemen with at least 100 RBIs last season. Although he may see his homer tally fall thanks to expected regression in the HR/FB rate arena (19.3 percent in 2016), the lifetime .307 hitter -- who most recently went on the disabled list in '06 -- is firmly entrenched as one of the game's most dependable producers.

Outlook: Cano, 2B, SEA

Odor emerged as one of the best all-around assets at the keystone position last season, finishing as one of just four big leaguers to produce at least 30 homers, 85 RBIs, 85 runs and 10 stolen bases. Still just 23 years old, Odor could make small plate-discipline strides (0.1 BB/K ratio in 2016) and post even greater counting-stat totals this year.

Outlook: Odor, 2B, TEX

Murphy debunked the myth that October heroics cannot predict future breakouts, following up a powerful 2015 postseason performance by surpassing his previous career-best marks in nearly every offensive department. With baseball's second-lowest strikeout rate since the outset of '15 (8.5 percent), the 31-year-old is poised to remain a top National League batting title contender after hitting .347 in '16. And though the second baseman had never belted more than 14 homers in a season prior to '16 (25 long balls), last year's personal highs in fly-ball (41.9 percent), pull (41.3 percent) and hard-hit (38.2 percent) rates suggest his power surge is sustainable.

Outlook: Murphy, 2B, WSH

Even in a season that was dominated by the long ball, Dozier's home run tally of 42 -- the American League record for second basemen -- was particularly impressive. By raising his fly-ball (47.7 percent in 2016) and hard-contact (34.7 percent in '16) rates last year, the pull-happy slugger has developed an approach that can consistently lead to lofty roundtripper totals. And with an average of 16 steals per season since the outset of '13, Dozier is one of the best power-speed options fantasy owners can find.

Outlook: Dozier, 2B, MIN

Tier 3: Dee Gordon, Jean Segura, Jason Kipnis, Ian Kinsler, DJ LeMahieu

The third tier includes three proven assets (Gordon, Kipnis, Kinsler) and two players (Segura, LeMahieu) who greatly elevated their stock last season.

Despite playing just 79 games and losing 65 points off his .333 average from the previous season, Gordon was one of 14 players to reach the 30-steal plateau last year. Having averaged 61 stolen bases per season over '14-15, the speedster is one of the few players who can single-handedly keep a fantasy team afloat in that category.

Outlook: Gordon, 2B, MIA

Long among the most well-rounded performers at the keystone position, Kinsler experienced a surprising power resurgence last season (28 long balls). Even if his homer total regresses in 2017, the 34-year-old should use his versatile skill set and spot atop the Tigers' potent lineup to deliver another strong fantasy showing.

Outlook: Kinsler, 2B, DET

Kipnis has been a difficult player to project throughout his career, as he has posted widely varying homer (high of 23, low of six), steal (high of 31, low of 12) and batting-average (high of .303, low of .240) figures over his five full seasons. But his volatility aside, Kipnis is a worthwhile selection for mixed-league owners thanks to his potential as a five-category contributor.

Outlook: Kipnis, 2B, CLE

Segura enjoyed a rapid rise to fantasy stardom after being selected in the second half of most mixed-league drafts last year, hitting .319 with 20 homers, 102 runs and 33 stolen bases. Yes, he may experience reduced batted-ball luck (.353 BABIP in 2016) and he will likely miss Arizona's hitter-friendly park factors after being traded to Seattle in the offseason. But the possibility that the 26-year-old can repeat his magical '16 campaign is more than enough reason to place him in this tier.

Outlook: Segura, 2B/SS, SEA

Like Segura, LeMahieu could regress after achieving unexpected greatness in 2016. However, last year's Major League-leading .348 average and .388 BABIP may not drop as much as some onlookers expect. With a line-drive stroke (26.6 percent in '16), an offense-inducing home park and an average exit velocity (92.5 mph) that tied for 20th in the Majors last season (minimum 200 balls in play, per Statcast™), the Rockies' sparkplug is set to produce another high batting average and triple-digit runs-scored total.

Outlook: LeMahieu, 2B, COL

Tier 4: Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist

Owners who wait on a second baseman will still have a pair of reliable veterans to choose from in this tier.

Although Pedroia no longer runs the bases aggressively, he is showing no signs of slowing down at the plate. After hitting .318 with 15 home runs and 105 runs scored a year ago, the Red Sox's second baseman can be considered a capable starting option in 12-team mixed leagues.

Plate discipline is the name of the game for Zobrist, who has posted the best BB/K ratio (1.1) in baseball over the past two seasons. The veteran enjoyed his first campaign in the Cubs' potent offense, using his stellar on-base skills (.386 OBP) and decent pop (18 homers) to score 94 runs. Capable of handling multiple defensive positions, the 35-year-old should remain a lineup staple for the reigning World Series champions in 2017.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.