Chase Utley played in 131 games last year, the most he has played in since 2009. The health of his knees will again be a major concern as the Philadelphia Phillies hope to make a run this season. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. apparently has little concern as he dished out a new contract to the 35-year-old Utley in the offseason, paying him $15 million this season.
Last season the Phillies did a nice job of monitoring Utley’s play time and making sure he had the necessary days of rest for him to be productive. They will need to do the same again this season, but if they find themselves in a playoff run down the stretch, it will be interesting to see how they handle him.
Over the last four seasons, Utley has averaged playing in only 108 games per season, playing over 120 only once. As a result, his home run totals, RBI and slugging percentage have all dipped — not a surprise for a player with knee problems to lose power without the full use of his legs.
On a positive note, he did bat .284 last season with 18 home runs and 69 RBI. That was in a lineup where Dominic Brown was the most feared batter. If they can stay healthy this season, Utley should have a little more protection and see a few better pitches.
Utley is the ultimate competitor, and the Phillies know they will get his best every day; but the question is, how good is his best?
Best case prediction: Utley plays 155 games, hits 29 home runs, accumulates 82 RBI, hits .294 and has a slugging percentage around .485.
Worst case prediction: Utley has trouble with his knees, plays less than 100 games, hits seven home runs, accumulates 30 RBI and hits .240.
Realistic prediction: Utley plays 145 games, hits 22 home runs, accumulates 77 RBI, hits .282 and has a slugging percentage around .479.
Utley’s numbers will depend on the status off his knees. If they can hold strong then he will have another strong year. As long as Ben Revere picks up where he left off when he got injured last season and Jimmy Rollins can produce out of the two spot, Utley should be able to knock them in consistently.