Double Play Depth: Another Spring of the Utley Dilemma

Could we be seeing a lot more of Chase Utley looking from the outside in? Phillies fans and fantasy owners sure hope not.

The Spotlight

Two weeks ago, in the first edition of DPD, I had Chase Utley pegged as a guy to watch as he wasn't playing in any games and Ruben Amaro was unsure of his timetable. Now we have a better idea as to why there was no timetable. Utley has hit a "plateau" in his rehab, according to the team, and is going to leave Florida for additional testing. This is exactly the news we did not want to hear with Utley, as there was a lot of optimism that he would at least be able to play the way he did when he came back last year despite his degenerative knee condition. Right now, there's no way to know when Utley will play. Amaro came out Monday and said that he's doubtful for opening day, but I think most of us probably assumed that once the original story broke.

For right now, Utley has dropped all the way out of my top-10 at 2B (he was #7 heading into the spring) and is settling at #14, just behind Jason Kipnis. In the interest of full disclosure, here are all of the guys I'd now rather have than Utley: Rickie Weeks, Howie Kendrick, Dustin Ackley, Neil Walker, Kelly Johnson, Jemile Weeks and the aforementioned Kipnis. I think that next level of Danny Espinosa, Aaron Hill and Ryan Roberts is where I'd personally draw the line at the moment.

So what does this mean for Philadephia? It looks like it may be Freddy Galvis time. "I think we have people in house," Amaro said. "Freddy has done a nice job for us. Until someone unseats Freddy, he'll be one of the candidates." The problem is that Galvis is a defender first, a defender second and a defender third. His best case scenario is that he plays stellar defense and hits an empty .250 at the bottom of the Phillies' lineup. For fantasy, you can look elsewhere -- even in NL-only leagues.

Other DPD Notes

* In this week's edition of Fun With Spring Stats, we look at two competitors for the Cubs' second base job. In a combined 44 at bats so far this March, Blake DeWitt and Darwin Barney have combined for exactly zero strikeouts. Yes, ZERO strikeouts. Barney, the current leader in the clubhouse, also has zero walks. Just because something has no fantasy relevance doesn't mean it's not awesome.

* You want other awesome spring training stats? You got it. Ian Kinsler is someone I'm very high on for this season, and believe he's a top-12 player in standard 5x5 leagues. This spring, he's giving no reason not to be on board, hitting .429 with 2 HR. But did you know that if his average holds up through the end of March, this will be the fourth spring in his last six that he's hit .400 or higher? Maybe this helps explain why Kinsler's career 910 OPS in April is his highest.

* Freddy Sanchez admitted that he's questionable for opening day due to lingering effects from off-season shoulder surgery. This means more playing time initially for Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot. Both are uninspiring options, but if Sanchez can make some improvements over the next week or two, he could make for an undervalued late round NL-only pick.

Short-Term Planning

During the regular season, this will be the best and worst performers from the past week in standard 5x5 categories. But for now, we'll have a little fun with it and show the biggest moves in ADP according to Mock Draft Central over the last week to see who the biggest subjects of spring training overreaction have been so far.

Who's Hot:

1) Ruben Tejada (+14.2%, Current ADP: 342, Previous ADP: 391)

2) Clint Barmes (+11.7%, Current ADP: 363, Previous ADP: 405)

3) Orlando Hudson (+11.0%, Current ADP: 403, Previous ADP: 448)

4) Cliff Pennington (+9.1%, Current ADP: 243, Previous ADP: 265)

5) Hanley Ramirez (+2.5%, Current ADP: 19.6, Previous ADP: 20.0)

Who's Not:

1) Tyler Greene (-11.7%, Current ADP: 389, Previous ADP: 343)

2) Jason Bartlett (-6.0%, Current ADP: 325, Previous ADP: 306)

3) Omar Infante (-4.0%, Current ADP: 265, Previous ADP: 254)

4) Ryan Theriot (-3.3%, Current ADP: 341, Previous ADP: 330)

5) Trevor Plouffe (-3.1%, Current ADP: 370, Previous ADP: 359)

The Bandwagon

Here is where I will keep the unabridged list of bandwagons I am currently on here in the world of middle infielders. The categories show how strongly I feel about them - ranging from "driving!" (a bandwagon I feel super strong about) to "about to jump!" (a bandwagon I'm pretty sure is on fire and requires my swift departure). Nothing will get erased from this list over the course of the season, so the "Evacuated" section will be there to remind us all of the crazy, crazy bandwagons I've supported over the course of the year. All new bandwagons for the current week are starred.

The Good:

Hanley Ramirez will finish 2012 as a top-10 overall player (driving!)

Derek Jeter will be more valuable in 2012 than Asdrubal Cabrera (firmly on)

The Bad:

J.J. Hardy will hit fewer than 20 HR (driving!)

The Ugly (Evacuated):

None yet. Whew.

Look Out Below!

Notes from future DPD occupants currently residing in the minor leagues. For now I'll just put the names of three guys I'm watching this spring who likely have no chance to make their respective teams in April, but could be in the majors later in the year:

* Steve Lombardozzi, 2B, Washington - He's likely the guy to get the call if either Desmond or Espinosa get hurt or really struggle. Could hit for some average with a few steals if given the opportunity (through 3/19, he's hitting .333 in 30 at bats with 1 HR, 1 SB and 3 K's).

* Jordany Valdespin, 2B, New York (NL) - Second base isn't exactly a strength for the Mets and he could see some action this summer. Valdespin is probably a better fantasy player than real-life player as he can steal some bases and has a little pop as well (through 3/19, he's hitting .346 in 26 at bats with two SB and 4 K's).

* Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle - I fully expect him to get the call up around mid-season and hang onto the job for a number of years. Do you even know who the Mariners starting SS is anyway? If you said Brendan Ryan, you're either a Mariners fan or you're a Mariners fan (through 3/19, he's still 1-for-7 with a single).

What to Watch For

It's usually a prospect we're talking when we say that a player needs to make more contact or else the rest of his tools won't play. In this case, we're talking about a major leaguer who will turn 25 next month. Danny Espinosa hit 21 HR and had 17 SB, but he also hit .236 and struck out in more than 1/4 of his plate appearances. With 10 K's in 31 plate appearances so far this spring, he doesn't show any signs of slowing down. I'm not going to say there's any significance to the fact that he also has no extra-base hits or stolen bases this spring, but it's all worth watching with the Nationals believing they can contend -- and he may not have as long of a leash as last year if he really struggles out of the gate. There's certainly the ability for Espinosa to go 20/20 even while hitting .230, but there's also the possibility that he ends up back in AAA in May. This needs to be priced into his value when he's compared to similar guys statistically like Kelly Johnson and Aaron Hill.

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