The Philadelphia Phillies have officially ended the Chase Utley experiment at third base before it even began, as GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. said earlier today that the team will not play Utley at the hot corner for the final six games of the 2012 season.
Any chance of Utley playing third base in the future remains to be determined but Amaro said he didn’t feel confident that the Phillies could fully evaluate Utley at third base in just six games.
This season, Utley has played his usual stellar defense at second base, where he ranks seventh-best in the major leagues in defensive UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) per 150 games. Utley is 33 years old and he has struggled with injuries recently. Factor in that 22-year old second baseman Freddy Galvis is a defensive whiz at second base, and it would really help the team if Utley can play third base.
Then again, that’s probably asking a lot. Utley hasn’t played the position since the minor leagues back in 2002 and he doesn’t have elite arm strength. He would also have to learn the position this offseason and then have his trial period on the go next year.
It will be interesting to see what the Phillies do with a middle infield combination of Utley, Galvis, and Jimmy Rollins in 2013. Rollins had a terrific ’12 campaign, and he’s not going anywhere from shortstop. That means Utley and Galvis may have to battle it out for second base, but Utley’s offense is so substantially better than Galvis’s that I can’t see the Phillies giving the position to Galvis.
Utley has suggested though that he may even be willing to learn to play the outfield. It’s difficult to imagine Utley out in center field chasing after fly balls but from what I know of Utley, he will work his tail off this offseason to learn to be the best defensive player he can be at whatever position the Phillies want him to play.