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2014 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Chase Utley

Chase Utley had a better season than you thought in 2013. Can he keep his ailing body on the field to do it again in 2014?

Slide 1 of 2 2014 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Chase Utley | Slide - 1 FantasyAlarm.com

At one point in time the Phillies' Chase Utley was the best second baseman in fantasy baseball. From 2005-08 Utley batted .305 with a .385 OBP an a .541 OPS. From 2005-09 Utley averaged 29 homers a season. Utley scored at least 100 runs 4-straight years (2006-09). Utley drove in at least 100 RBIs in 4-straight years (2005-08). From 2005-09 Utley averaged 15 thefts a year. As I said, Utley was the best second baseman in fantasy baseball and on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Then disaster struck.

Utley's body broke down.

He appeared in 115 games in 2010.
In 2011 that number dipped to 103.
He sunk further in 2012 to 83 games played.
He looked like a combination of Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Entering 2013 everyone was looking past Utley. He rewarded those that had faith in him with his best season since 2009 as he appeared in 131 games. Utley went out there last season and hit .284 with 18 homers, 69 RBIs, 73 runs scored and eight steals. That effort was nowhere near his peak efforts, but it was still a very solid season. Here is how Utley ranked among second basemen last season.

Utley hit .284. That's the same mark as Jason Kipnis.
Utley was 4th at the second base position with 18 homers. That's one more than Kipnis.
Utley drove in 69 runs. That was six more then Jedd Gyorko.
Utley scored 73 times. That was two more than Martin Prado.
Utley stole eight bags. That was one more than Robinson Cano.

I'm not saying Utley was who he used to be last season, but the point is that the 34 year old Utley was pretty good in 2013 (he turned 35 in December). Better than you thought he would be for sure, and possibly better than you thought he did when the 2013 season was complete.

Let's explore further.

Utley is a career .287 batter who hit .284 last season after two years of failing to reach .260. A bit of oddness there. Utley had an 8.5 percent walk rate, his lowest mark since 2007, in 2013. Utley had a 14.9 percent K-rate, his highest total in four years. Utley also had a 19.5 percent line drive rate, 0.7 points under his career mark. All of that suggests that a repeat of that .284 batting average is a bit dubious given that after 3-straight years of seeing his BABIP under .290 that the mark rose to .305 last season. Not impossible that he repeats the batting average, but not a certainty.

What about the power? The last time Utley hit 20 homers was 2009. That also happens to be the last time he accrued 500 at-bats. Coincidence? I'm no Fox Mulder, but I think I can smell out a conspiracy when I come across one. The fact is that the reason that Utley no longer hits 20 homers has more to do with his lack if playing time than a loss of skill. Just take a look at three key measures for Utley from 2013 compared to his career levels.

2013: 0.89 GB/FB, 42.5 FB-rate, 10.6 HR/FB
career: 0.90 GB/FB, 42.1 FB-rate, 12.5 HR/FB

All of those differences are well within the realm of the expected. It should be noted, I would be remiss if I didn't point it out, that while Utley's power bat hasn't vanished, he hasn't recorded a 12.5 percent HR/FB ratio since 2009. Still, in three of his last four seasons he's had marks of 11.2, 11.6 and 10.5 percent. He's lost a bit of oomph from his heyday, but it's not drastic.

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Searching for answer for the 2014 fantasy baseball season? Turn to a trusted source to enlighten you – Fantasy Alarm – and pick up your very own copy of the 2014 Fantasy Alarm Baseball Draft Guide. After reading the 200 pages of information you will be ready to dominate the competition in the coming season on your way to a fantasy baseball championship.

Slide 2 of 2 2014 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Chase Utley | Slide - 2 FantasyAlarm.com

 Have you picked up your copy of the 2014 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide yet? If you haven't, well obviously get on that right now. If you're still not convinced, here's a little teaser from the piece about Chris Davis that predicts a substantial pullback from last season.

What about the other counting categories of RBIs and runs scored?

From 2006-09 when Utley scored 100 runs each season, he was averaging a run scored every 5.97 plate appearances. Last season he scored 73 runs in 531 plate appearances, good for a rate of one for every 7.27 PAs. Obviously that is well off his former elite pace. Part of the reason for that was the fact that the Phillies offense just didn't do a great job scoring runs. Part of the reason is Utley as his .348 OBP last season was .033 points below his 2006-09 average. As for RBIs, from 2005-09 he drove a run in every 6.65 plate appearances. Last season that mark was one every 7.70 plate appearances. Off his initial pace in both categories is he. Still, if you give Utley 550 at-bats, and he were to maintain his '13 pace over those 550 at-bats, he would have driven in 80 runs and scored 84 times. Those are pretty good numbers, no? Add in this batting average and homer rates and Utley would have gone .280-20-80-80 in 2013 if he had maintained his pace over 550 at-bats. Who wouldn't have wanted that?

A for steals, an odd thing happened in 2013. Utley stole eight bases last season, his worst total since 2004. That's not odd given his age or the issue with his knees, but it is a bit odd given that the previous three seasons when Utley appeared in 115 or fewer games he stole 13, 14 and 11 bases. Utley is no speed demon, and we all know that. If he steals 8-10 bases again you should be happy with it.

Utley is 35. The last time he appeared in 130 games in back-to-back seasons was 2008-09. Those two facts should make anyone weary of counting on Utley to play 135 games in 2014. At the same time, even if he only appears in 135 games, he's still a good enough offensive performer that a top-10 season at second base is still doable. You won't have to reach to draft Utley, many have discounted him or just aren't willing to take the risk on him at this stage of his career, so an astute fantasy player will keep a close eye on Utley and know that at a certain point in every draft that Utley will go from being someone to ignore to someone worth taking a shot on.

By Ray Flowers

 

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Searching for answer for the 2014 fantasy baseball season? Turn to a trusted source to enlighten you – Fantasy Alarm – and pick up your very own copy of the 2014 Fantasy Alarm Baseball Draft Guide. After reading the 200 pages of information you will be ready to dominate the competition in the coming season on your way to a fantasy baseball championship.


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