Can a 2B From the Wire Replace Utley?

by Bryce McRae on July 26, 2007 @ 16:00:00 PDT


Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley (hand) broke his hand during the team's 7-6 loss to the Washington Nationals Thursday, July 26. Utley was hit on the hand by a pitch from Nationals starting pitcher John Lannan; it broke the fourth metacarpal bone in Utley's right hand.

The team immediately placed Utley on the 15-day disabled list. He will be reexamined Friday, July 27, by a hand specialist. He is expected to be replaced in the lineup by infielder Abraham O. Nunez. In 81 games this season, Nunez is hitting .256 with 13 RBI and one stolen base. He is not a fantasy option.

At this time, it is unknown when Utley will return, but Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he expects Utley to return this season. He is out indefinitely, although he said that he hopes he can be back in four weeks. Utley should be stashed on the disabled list for now.

However, that begs the question of what to do while he's out. Up to this point, Utley had been hitting .336 with 17 home runs, 82 RBI, 79 runs and seven stolen bases. Those numbers are going to be hard to find in a replacement, but there are a few options out there.

Washington Nationals second baseman Ronnie Belliard is an option to replace Utley. He recently signed a two-year extension with the team and has been having a resurgent July. In 73 at-bats this month, he is hitting .315 with three home runs, 12 RBI and eight runs. He is available in roughly 99 percent of leagues polled.

Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill would be a decent replacement for Utley, too. In 100 games this season Hill is hitting .278 with 11 home runs, 56 RBI, 56 runs and three stolen bases. He has come on a bit in July, hitting .299 with two home runs, 11 RBI and 12 runs in 77 at-bats. He is available in around 37 percent of leagues polled.

One final option is Kansas City Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek. In 66 games this season, Grudzielanek is hitting .302 with four home runs, 32 RBI and 42 runs. He has been day-to-day recently with sore knees, but he has been on fire in July. In 59 at-bats this month he is hitting .424 with six RBI and 14 runs. He is available in about 99 percent of leagues polled.

Such a blow at this stage of the season could cause fantasy owners to panic and trade something of great value for a second baseman. However, Utley is in a class of his own at the position, so you shouldn't give up more than you can get to fill the hole. You would likely be handicapping yourself even more. Only look to trade if you have excess at a certain position or can get more than you give in return. If you can trade excess pitching, that might be the ideal route, considering that pitchers have less of a cumulative effect on your fantasy numbers. You aren't going to be able to trade for a second baseman with Utley's impact, but you may get a player closer to his ability at a different position.

Utley was a potential MVP candidate this season, and his numbers will be impossible to replace on the wire. However, you have to do your best to stem some of the bleeding until he returns. Utley responded after the game Thursday that as far as breaks go, this one isn't too bad. Keep an eye on KFFL for any updates on his condition.

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About Bryce McRae

Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.

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