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.