The Sports Network reports Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley (hip) will undergo surgery on his right hip next week. The surgery will be an arthroscopic evaluation with treatment of any labral or bone injury. Utley's recovery should allow him to begin participating in baseball activities between three and four months, but the total recovery time could require four to six months, which could keep him out for the first few months of next season.
Utley had been downplaying speculation regarding his injured hip during the second half of the 2008 playoffs. Drs. Michael Ciccotti and Bryan Kelly, after evaluating Utley following the World Series, both recommended that Utley undergo the hip surgery next week. The best-case scenario would have him returning in early April, but the worst-case scenario would be late May or early June, depending on how long the team feels he will need to rehab.
Utley's hip problems became apparent over the last four months of the season, as opposing teams and scouts were speculating that he was playing with a lower body injury. While leading the major leagues in home runs (21) through June 3 last year, he hit .321 with 53 RBIs, a .408 on-base percentage and a .684 slugging percentage. However, after that he hit just .272 with 12 home runs, 51 RBIs, a .362 on-base percentage and a .446 slugging percentage. Utley also hit .220 in the playoffs, with two home runs in the World Series.
The Phillies will most likely look for a potential replacement at second base in the offseason, if Utley doesn't return until late May or early June. They are believed to be pursuing second baseman Tadahito Iguchi (Philadelphia Phillies) and infielder Nick Punto (Minnesota Twins), who are both free agents. Another option would be to move shortstop prospect Jason Donald over to second base.
Iguchi filled in for Utley when he broke his hand during the 2007 season. However, he struggled in 2008 with the San Diego Padres and Phillies, hitting just .232 with two home runs and 24 RBIs in 310 at-bats.
Punto, a member of the Phillies from 2001-03, hit .284 with two home runs and 28 RBIs with the Minnesota Twins in 2008. He is known more for his defensive abilities and his mediocre stolen base contributions, but would be an upgrade over the declining Iguchi. Punto hit for a career-best .290 average in 2006 but has never hit more than four home runs in a single season.
Donald is a highly touted prospect in the team's minor league system and is a longshot to take over at second base if Utley is out for an extended period of time next year. However, he has posted good numbers in the Arizona Fall League; hitting .407 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 91 at-bats.
It is safe to say that regardless of whom the Phillies might use to temporarily replace Utley for the start of the 2009 season, they will not come close to posting the explosive numbers that Utley is capable of producing. It is possible, though, that Utley will recover in time to begin playing in the first month of the 2009 season.
There is no reason to dump him in any keeper leagues, though at the moment it certainly appears risky to pick him in the first few rounds of single-year drafts next season. Utley's hip problem clearly hindered his performance late last season, and a stalled recovery could produce a similar downturn in Utley's fantasy potential. The baseball world should gain more insight regarding Utley's progress as we inch closer to draft season, when KFFL.com will provide an updated plan of action before you pick your teams.
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.
Don't miss these great reports....