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Chase Utley nearing a return
Utley's been sitting for a while
The risk in Utley was inherent before the start of this season, and if you took the leap on him you've paid for it. However, if you've been patient and stashed him, it could pay off soon. Utley went 2-for-3 with his first home run with Class A Clearwater Wednesday night. He's hitting .217 (5-for-23) during his brief rehab assignment. Charlie Manuel thinks his second baseman could return as early as next week.
Utley is a notoriously slow healer, but his rehab trail from chronic knee tendonitis has been excruciatingly slow. Since the 2009 season, he hasn't been able to stay healthy; a torn thumb ligament in 2010 limited him to 115 games, and he suited up for only 103 contests last year while dealing with patellar tendonitis.
His injuries have had a debilitating effect on his power over those lost seasons. His batting average and slugging percentage dropped dramatically, and at age 33 (34 at the end of July), it's rather unlikely that he'll revert to his elite slugging levels. His HR/FB dropped to 6.7 percent last year, his lowest mark in that indicator since his debut in 2003.
He did produce a respectable 46.2 percent fly-ball rate last year after returning in late May, but his knee ailments clearly sapped him of the ability to consistently drive the ball with authority.
On the bright side, Utley has always maintained a consistent and sound plate approach - he's not afraid to take a walk and possesses an acute sense of the strike zone. This has helped him - amid his deterioration in health - actually improve his ability to put wood on the ball over the past two seasons.
Utley's knee has been feeling OK, per reports. It's not a ringing endorsement that he can avoid setbacks once he's back with the Philadelphia Phillies, but the fact that he hasn't had any recurrences of knee pain while playing second base on his rehab assignment is a good sign.
Even without the trademark power that he had prior to the 2010 season, Utley's baseline skills remain, making him worth rostering in shallow leagues. Do a sweep of your waiver wire to make sure your leaguemates haven't completely written him off.
About Keith Hernandez
Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.
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