Jul 9, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley (26) doubles during the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
What do you do with an aging player? Depends on the player, but usually the older you are the further down the rankings list you find yourself. As a notice to the readers, I am writing this article with limited bias because Chase Utley is my favorite baseball player (he has good hair). It is my belief that he still holds some fantasy value. Yes, he has some downsides (two bad knees). But people in front of him do, too. For instance, teammate Ryan Howard is ranked higher. Yes, Ryan Howard.
Last season in 155 games, Utley batted .270/.339/.407/109 (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS+) with 11 home runs, 85 strike-outs, and a 3.6 WAR. That is not the Chase Utley many fell in love with some years ago. Through April last year, he was batting .355/.408/.570 with 3 home runs, 14 RBI, and 14 runs scored. Through May, he was .320/.381/.517 with 4 home runs, 27 RBI, and 31 runs. He dropped off his power a bit but was still getting on-base consistently and scoring runs. He dramatically fell off after this point.
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My real argument for Utley is this: others going before him are either too inexperienced, mediocre, or also have a track history of injury. First up: new Athletics third baseman Brett Lawrie. Fun fact: Brett Lawrie has never played a full season. He has shown his upside while healthy, but his sample size is too small. I will not trust Lawrie until I see a healthy, productive Lawrie at year’s end. That seems to be the point of this five-part series on value: don’t trust the inexperienced; look elsewhere for cheaper, comparable players.
Another question mark is Chris Owings, Diamondbacks shortstop. With parts of two seasons, his data is incomplete. He has shown upside, so maybe keep him on your watch list to see if he lights up. He is a deep sleeper at best. Also pass on Brandon Phillips a few rounds before Utley. He is Utley-esque, but without the power potential. He batted .266/.306/.372/91 with 8 HR, 74 strike-outs, and 1.7 WAR (he has also said this recently).
The middle infield is not as deep as other positions. Utley is an aging second baseman on a broken team. He could be a serviceable middle infield option or UT player to play when you have an opening. So if you miss out on picks like Martin Prado or Ben Zobrist, Utley can be a solid very late-round pick-up.