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Fantasy Baseball 2011: Chase Utley, Kendry Morales, Joe Mauer and Other Offseason Thoughts

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I was talking with a friend in one of my NL-only re-draft leagues on Friday and we were discussing who will be the first round picks in our 11 team league. I mentioned that I thought Phillies second baseman Chase Utley was a risk, but that he would probably be drafted in the first round, as this league has several Phillies fans.

With that said here is David Murphy from the Philadelphia Daily News on Utley, with quotes from manager Charlie Manuel:

There exists a certain level of paranoia among Phillies fans when it comes to the health of their star second baseman. So Charlie Manuel's decision to rest Chase Utley for a few days is sure to raise more than a few eyebrows back home. But the Phillies manager insists that his three-hole hitter is battling nothing more than routine soreness in his legs and knees.

"Chase is fine," Manuel said. "When he's ready to go out there, I'll put him out there. Definitely, he's not injured. He's fine."

I am not so confident. Fantasy owners need to watch Utley's health this spring training.

More after the jump:

The Angels have to be concerned with first baseman Kendry Morales, despite claims be manager Mike Scioscia that he will be ready for opening day. Its has been reported that Morales is not close to running 100% yet. Here is Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times on Morales' health:

Most of his running has been done on a special treadmill equipped with a harness that allows Morales to "de-weight" his body by 30%-40%. The Angels open Cactus League play against the Dodgers on Saturday, but it appears unlikely Morales will play in an exhibition game for at least a week.

DiGiovanna did say Morales will DH in spring training. I ranked Morales as the 6th best first baseman for AL-only leagues. I would like to see how he responds to game action before changing that ranking. And here is what Jeremy had to say about him in his AL West Injury Rebounds post recently:

Kendry Morales - Morales broke out in 2009 and looked like a solid option at first base until he snapped his leg celebrating a walk off homer. Kendry recently said his leg only bothers him while running but is fine during BP. This is good news for owners hoping for a return of production but bad news for those waiting for his 20 SB breakout. I would be more confident in a return to form if he were saying there was no pain present so it will be worth watching how he performs in spring training before depending on him.

For those of you in NL-only leagues, or very deep mixed leagues, the Nationals are considering sending outfielder Roger Bernadina to AAA to start the season. SB Nation's Nationals site, Federal Baseball, has the reasons here.

Speaking of the Nationals, they have a backlog of catchers on their roster this spring training with Ivan Rodriguez, Wison Ramos and Jesus Flores battling for two catcher spots on the roster. MLB.com's Bill Ladsen speculates that the Nationals may deal one of them, with Flores the most likely to be traded. Could the Red Sox or Yankees have interest?

Is anyone else concerned about Twins catcher Joe Mauer after news came out last week that he will get several injections in his left knee over the next few weeks? How soon before he moves off catcher. The Twins have to be considering it especially with the money invested in those knees.

Adrian Beltre will be out for two weeks with a calf injury he suffered running on a treadmill. It appears Michael Young will step in for him at third base while he is out.  I assume any trade talk will now be tabled till Beltre is healthy.

The Padres will have a hard time scoring runs in 2011 with Adrian Gonzalez no longer around, but according to Tim Sullivan at the San Diego Union Tribune, the Padres will be more aggressive on the basepaths this season, and Will Venable will be asked to run more this season to create more scoring opportunities. Here is Sullivan on Venable:

Will Venable has the legs for larceny and, as of now, more license. The Padres’ foremost base stealer has been given a green light and a strategic imperative to ramp up the running game.

I will have more on Venable in a fantasy sleeper article in the next few days.