Chase Utley hit 38 homers over the last three years, a period in which injuries have limited him to just 301 games. That’s a rate of almost exactly 19 homers per 150 games. The Utley of old was good for 30+ homers per 150 games, but the older Utley of recent memory is not the Utley of old.
The new, older Utley (confused yet?) has become a different, more patient hitter. His three best K:BB ratios have come in the last three years, and twice he’s had a perfect 1:1 ratio. In fact, Utley’s 0.95 K:BB ratio since the start of 2010 ranks 10th among the 351 batters to tally at least 600 total plate appearances over that span.
And last year Utley’s 21.4% line drive rate and great 1.00 K:BB ratio yielded an expected batting average of .304 with an expected BABIP of .321. Instead, he stumbled to a .256 average thanks to a .261 BABIP. I’m not ready to write Utley off yet, but 2013 will be his last chance to prove he’s worth ranking among the top 150.
At a Glance
Strengths: K, BB, OBP
Neutral: R, HR, RBI, SB, BA, SLG, OPS
Best-case scenario: Dustin Pedroia (BOS)
Likely scenario: Ben Zobrist (TB), Brandon Phillips (CIN), Neil Walker (PIT)
Worst-case scenario: Kelly Johnson (TOR)
Chase Utley 2013 Fantasy Projection
Predictive stats like xBA and xBABIP should be relied upon only so much, so I’d caution anyone who wants to take those numbers and run with a .300+ projected average in 2013, but the point is Utley’s peripherals indicate he still has some gas left in the tank. He just has to keep himself on the field.
And that’s one area where we decide to play it safe. It might seem pessimistic to project Utley for just 125 games this year, but if he does play that many games it would represent his highest total in the last four years. Projecting injuries is never fun as Utley could stay healthy for 145 games and put up a .280/25/100 season or get hurt and wind up with a .260/12/65 line, so how much you value him comes down to how risk-averse you are.
Personally, if I’m taking a chance on a high-risk, high-reward player, it’s generally with a young player who’s best-case scenario hinges on him playing at a high level rather than staying healthy. There’s nothing worse in fantasy than getting stuck with a player who plays great when he’s on the field but can’t be counted upon to actually be on the field. Give me a bust any day; at least in their case I can have no questions about dropping them. But a player who plays great but could go down at any given moment and leave me scrambling? That’s a player I don’t want any part of.
While we project Utley to finish as a borderline top-100 option, that’s honestly just a guess. I feel confident in our per-game projections from him, but it’s the number of game’s that’s completely up in the air.