Is Chase Utley a legitmate second round pick in 2009 fantasy baseball drafts? I ask because there are a variety of reasons to shy away from him -as Lenny Melnick so succinctly relayed to me during my appearance on BlogTalkRadio. Tops amongst those is hip surgery Utley underwent on November 25th. With recovery time ranging from 3 to 6 months, this makes March the most optimistic and June the most pessimistic.
Additionally, the Phillies have signed former 2B Marcus Giles to complement utility infielder Eric Bruntlett and rookie Jason Donald in protecting the team against a lengthy recovery. Finally, the hip issue could cost Utley the double digit steals that made him a consensus Top 10 draftee in 2008.
To me, I considered each of those concerns, but I decided to go with my own justifications. First, Utley is currently telling everyone who asks that he feels great and expects to be ready for Opening Day. If Utley is good judge of his meidcal condition, this is all one needs to conclude he is a good selection in the 2nd round.
To buttress that conclusion, I considered the cases of closer Jason Isringhausen and starting pitcher Justin Duchscherer. Both pitchers underwent hip surgery and returned the next season as good, or better, than their previous season. In the case of Isringhausen, he saw his walks drop by 34% in the 2007 season following off-season surgery.
Duchscherer had hip surgery in the summer of 2007 and was one of 2008's surprise starting pitchers with a 2.54 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Granted those numbers were not much better than his prior seasons, but he posted those as a reliever.
As for the signals sent by the signing of 2B Marcus Giles, I hadn't given it much credence. Giles was incapable of making the San Diego Padres in 2008. I figured if he couldn't make that team, then his professional career had wound down.
Given Utley's self-prognosis, recent success of players who have had hip surgery, and the ability of possible replacements, I chose Chase Utley with the 18th overall pick and felt very good about it. However, I wanted to look into the argument Lenny used about the SBs because it a valid one. Without double digit steals, Utley would be a slightly better version of Robinson Cano.
To do so, I wanted had to clarify when Chase Utley hurt himself during the 2008 season. I knew he had played a large part of his 33 HR/104 RBI/113 Run/14 SB/.292 AVG 2008 season hurt, but I wasn't sure how much. From the New York Times article covering the announcement of surgery, I learned he had played the entire 2008 season with the hip problem.
According to Scott Sheridan, the Phillies’ head athletic trainer, the team did not know precisely when Utley injured his hip, only that Utley had told him that he may have originally hurt it during off-season workouts last winter.
OK. That settled, I still checked to see whether Utley's 2008 SB totals would offer an obvious point where the hip actually hindered his base stealing i.e. 10 pre-ASB, 4 post-ASB. His monthly SB totals were 2/3/2/3/2/2. I really can't conclude the hip will hinder him in 2009 if he consistently swiped a couple bases per month when it was hurt, can I?
WIth the SB issue settled in favor of my predisposition, I have convinced myself that Chase Utley is a legitmate second round pick given all we currently know. Have I convinced you?