There was a time when Chase Utley was not only far and away the best second baseman in the league, but he was among the elite players, period. A former surefire first-round draft choice, injuries have helped to rob him of some of his upside. Just look at the numbers over the past two seasons combined:
.267 Batting Average (220 Hits)
27 Home Runs109 RBI
32 Stolen Bases
.367 On-Base Percentage
.435 Slugging Percentage
.278 Batting Average on Balls in Play
Let’s keep a few numbers in mind:
- He has four seasons with 28 HR or more (including three of at least 30)
- He has four seasons with at least 100 R (three of at least 110, including 131 R in ’06)
- He has four seasons of at least 100 RBI
- He is a .290 career hitter with four seasons above .290 (including one of .332)
We all know that at 33 years old, Utley is not the player he once was. If you are going to draft him, you just can’t expect the type of production that he gave you from 2005-2009. That is the past. The question is, exactly what is the present? How should owners value Utley heading into 2012?
You have to think that, a year removed from missing the first seven weeks of the 2011 campaign, he would be on the upswing. Of course, how do you then explain him hitting .245 with seven HR over 241 AB in the second half?
The truth of the matter is that Utley’s knee issues could be a consistent problem for him throughout the remainder of his career. Last year, Stephania Bell of ESPN posted an article (click here to view) that she concluded with a great analogy on his situation:
Perhaps the best analogy for Utley’s knee condition is that of a worn tire. You know that if you continue to drive on it, you may be able to get another 20,000 miles out of it, but if the tire blows, it won’t come as a great surprise. And if you put the car in the garage and ‘rest’ it, it doesn’t improve the tire tread.
We all know that Utley is as tough as they come and is going to give the Phillies everything he can, if he can. The problem is that he may only be able to do so much and his physical ability may simply not be the same that it once was.
There is a ray of light, though, since despite the knee issue he still managed to steal 14 bases in 2011—but that is far from enough. The leg issues could easily zap him of his ability to hit for power or any general authority.
Last season he posted a minuscule 12.7 percent line-drive rate, which would’ve been the second worst in the league had he qualified for the batting title (Vernon Wells posted a 12.3 percent mark). While it’s impossible to expect him to be that bad once again, we also can’t expect him to be slugging the ball all across the diamond either.
Is there still enough there to consider him a starting option at the position? Yes, but he’s more of a mid-to-back-end option. He’s not likely to hit .300. He’s not likely to hit much more than 20 HR. He’s not likely to surpass 170 RBI/R.
Just go into the season with realistic expectations. In other words, don’t expect him to be the player he once was.
What do you think of Utley? What type of expectations do you have? Is he a player you are willing to draft?
Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: