Friday, March 18, 2011

Fantasy Friday: Is Utley Worth a Pick?

The Phillies have a lot to be excited about this Spring, as they boast the best rotation in the big leagues and are favored by many to win the National League pennant.  However, not all is well in Clearwater, Florida as spring training begins to wind down.  Chase Utley, expected to hit third in the Phillies lineup and one of the leaders of the team, has yet to record a spring training at-bat and he will not be ready for Opening Day.  So, if you need a second baseman, is Utley worth your pick?

In the preseason fantasy rankings of second basemen, ESPN  ranked Utley sixth and YahooSports! ranked Utley seventh.  He would undoubtedly be higher, except for his long-term injury possibilities.  Unlike Utley's past freak injuries, his knee problems so far this Spring stem from wear and tear.  He has been diagnosed with patellar tendinitis, with no structural damage, but the Phillies are wondering why the injury hasn't gotten much better.  The Phillies are currenting looking for new medical opinions.  It's obvious that Utley will miss Opening Day, but no one really knows how long he will have to stay off the field.

Let's not forget that as recently as 2009, Utley was one of the top two or three second basemen in the game.  In '09, Utley hit .282/.397/.508 (avg/obp/slg) with 31 homers, 93 RBI and 23 stolen bases.  He holds a career .293 average and, when healthy, he may be the most valuable hitter in the Phillies lineup (even more valuable than Ryan Howard).  If you know you can get most of a full season out of Utley, he would be worth drafting over Brandon Phillips, Ian Kinsler, and maybe even Dan Uggla (who are all ranked ahead of Utley in ESPN's 2011 fantasy season projections).  However, with all the uncertainty surrounding Utley's health, and the fact that this injury could hold Utley back in the long term, it makes sense to find another second baseman.

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