Chase Utley, 2B (LHB)
2008: 607 AB / 113 R / 33 HR / 104 RBI / 64 BB / 104 SO / 14 SB / .292 AVG / .380 OBP / .535 SLG
Summary: Chase Utley was having his finest offensive season in 2008 before a mysterious hip injury slowed him to mortal status. Of course, that was when his defense took center stage, and Utley — maybe robbed of a Gold Glove — directed a highlight reel of stupendous plays at second base. Still, Utley was hitting home runs at an alarming rate, at times threatening for 50 in a projected season. And his average was sitting comfortably in the expected .310s. The injury brought his homer total to a normal — but still impressive — 33, and his average to a solid but unspectacular .292. He improved against left-handed pitching (.277/.368/.519), but was lame in tight situations (.221/.353/.347 in late-and-close).
Career Level: Prime 2 (Year 2)
Green Flags: Utley remains impressive in all facets of the game, despite the hip injury. … The first two months of 2008 indicated where Utley was heading as his prime entered its second phase. … Even if the offense drops, Utley’s defense is valuable enough to retain his position as one of the game’s most important players. … Utley made contact with 65.7 perecent of pitches outside the plate, a very strong mark. … Utley became more of a line drive hitter in 2008.
Red Flags: The hip might still be bothering him (though he says it doesn’t), and that could mean even worse results in 2009. … Utley saw an exorbitant amount of fastballs in 2008 (61.8 percent of pitches), and that number shouldn’t be that high in 2009. … As a clutch hitter, Utley has deteriorated, and his clutch number is now at -2.19.
Prognostication: Utley is difficult to project because of the hip. Could he see fewer play early in the season? Absolutely (not likely, though). But could he also see no disruption? Absolutely. This projection is based on a full season without disruption; most experts see Utley to track down slightly from his age 28 and 29 trends, but I see a career season. Why not? He was on that pace before the injury.
2009 Projection: 621 AB / 119 R / 36 HR / 102 RBI / 69 BB / 110 SO / 18 SB / .314 AVG / .393 OBP / .555 SLG