Chase Utley’s Knee Injury Lingers

Last season, Chase Utley opened the season on the disabled list due to knee tendinitis. He would miss 46 games. Now, reports are surfacing at CSN Philadelphia that the 33-year-old second baseman has left Phillies camp to see a specialist for his continually sore knees. It’s now considered “likely” Utley will begin the season on the disabled list, putting the Phillies’ entire infield situation into question.

The Phillies have a few options in terms of utility infielders on their roster. Michael Martinez has major league experience at both second and third base, as does Ty Wigginton (although his glove may be prohibitively bad at this point). The Phillies have also considered starting 22-year-old shortstop prospect Freddy Galvis at second base — the above-linked CSN article even deems it likely.

Galvis is clearly the best defensive option, but his ability to hit as a major league second baseman is lacking. Between Double-A and Triple-A last season, Galvis recorded a .278/.324/.392 line (and struggled in his 126 plate appearances at Triple-A). The average major league second baseman hit .260/.320/.389, so unless Galvis can manage the same production against major league pitching as he did in the high minors, he will struggle to hit at the level of his second baseman peers.

Considering Placido Polanco‘s injury concerns as well — he’s missed at least 30 games each of the last two seasons — the Phillies may want to look into improving their infield depth. If Michael Martinez is forced to start any significant amount of time at second or third base, the Phillies will be left without a backup shortstop and would be forced to use the lumbering Wigginton as a utility infielder. The Phillies have a starting pitcher to trade in Joe Blanton or Kyle Kendrick and could use that to shore up their depth.

Regardless of any move the Phillies make, though, there will be a definite step down from Utley’s unerring quality. Even in his worst year as a full time starter (since 2005), Utley still managed a 116 wRC+ and 3.9 WAR. The Phillies can try to replace him through defense and depth, but if Utley’s injury keeps him sidelined as much as it did last season, it will be impossible for the Philles roster as currently constructed to make up for his lost production.

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26 Responses to “Chase Utley’s Knee Injury Lingers”

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  1. Matty Brown says:

    I just drafted him in OttoNeu yesterday! :( I wasn’t expecting a full season from him anyway though.

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    • Jesse says:

      I drafted him in one league, but expected that he was going to start the year and wear out. Still, I think he’s probably a fantasy buy low.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      Wow. I knew the Phillies had it bad, but I didn’t know this extended all the way to your fantasy team. The hits just keep on coming!

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  2. Dan in Philly says:

    Speaking as a Phillies fan, I kind of miss the quicker injury rebounds of the untested days…

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  3. Tom says:

    This is why it was insane for the Red Sox to give Scutaro away for peanuts before they really had to. They could have likely dumped him at any point.

    They may have been able to do a Blanton- Scutaro swap… The Phils may have even kicked in some money. for the cash strapped Red Sox.

    (Or instead of getting a reliever for Jed Lowrie…)

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  4. do3in says:

    I vote for Utley to become the 1st cyborg player in the MLB

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  5. Hurtlockertwo says:

    The bad knees are going to keep Utley out of the HOF, he was a lock at one point.

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    • Curtis says:

      If he isn’t a HOF now he was never a lock.

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      • Hurtlockertwo says:

        He only has nine total seasons now, he needs ten of course to even be considered for the HOF. Of the nine seasons, six have been HOF worthy so if he continues at his present level he will be much like Don Mattingly, great for a period of time and very average the rest of his carreer.

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      • LTG says:

        Mattingly is not a good comp for Utley. Utley had 5 peak seasons to Matt’s 3. And Utley’s peak was higher. Utley has 5 more career fWAR than Matt in 55-60% of the PAs. Utley is just a better player than Mattingly. If his knees would just allow him to play at last year’s level until his late 30s he would easily qualify as the best 2B since Joe Morgan. (That’s right, easily; Alomar and Sandberg have only longevity on Utley.)

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    • Dan M. says:

      Utley’s 5 year peak is the only one I know of that even approaches Joe Morgan’s. 39.2 looks pretty amazing, and then you compare it to Morgan’s 50 WAR peak over five seasons (yikes!).

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  6. JayT says:

    Could Polanco move back to second? Then they could put Wiggington at third. Still not a great defensive set up, but the hitting might make up for leaving Galvis out.

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    • LTG says:

      Wigginton is not good enough as a hitter to make up for his cement limbs. In fact, Wigginton is not that good at hitting period. It would be better to use Galvis at 2B and keep Polanco at 3B.

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  7. jim says:

    kinda sad, really; definitely looks bad for a guy with a HOF peak

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  8. Steve says:

    I love Utley, but it couldn’t have happened to a nicer fanbase.

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    • LTG says:

      So, your okay that Utley is suffering debilitating knee injuries because it is a means of revenge against a minority of people within a large fanbase that are hostile and loud about it.

      Tired. So tired.

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    • Nik says:

      The fanbase is doing quite well, thanks for your concerns!

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      • All Philly fans says:

        So, Nik, are you gonna make it to the riots after tomorrow’s game? Don’t forget your brass knuckles. I’m bringing my D-cell collection. I heard they’re gonna burn a Santa Claus effigy, and then we can take turns vomiting on the ashes.

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      • LTG says:

        Yes, and then we can break someone’s skull (wait, not Phillies fans) or, ummmm, direct persistent homophobic slurs at our rivals best players (wait, not Phillies fans, or at least not only). I know, let’s riot on the field because we hate disco and then stomp a first base coach (wait, not Phillies fans). No, no, I got it, we should pour beer on a player trying to catch a ball and wear xenophobic shirts about the best hitter in the game (wait, not Phillies fans).

        See, this can be done with lots of fanbases. For some reason, Philly fans are the ones stereotyped, while other fanbases get the more reasonable treatment that the small percentage of jerks does not represent the whole. At fangraphs I would have expected this lesson to be learned by now.

        Although, the post made me chuckle. People are silly.

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      • Tom B says:

        I’ve never seen a man tackle a port-a-potty… except at a Phillies game.

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    • L.UZR says:

      Or be a Braves’ fan and don’t attend the games even though your team was in a race for a playoff position all year.

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  9. Evan says:

    It’s insane how good Utley has been. The way he could turn on an inside pitch with great bat speed and drive the ball was my favorite sight in baseball. I hope he finds a way to manage his knee issues, but the way it sounds he can no longer play everyday at second base.

    Since 93 the only other position players on the Phillies who were as fun to watch were Scott Rolen and maybe Abreu (who I didn’t appreciate enough at the time).

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