Photo Courtesy of Renne Cendrowski
I understand everyone’s desire to try their best to extend the career of Chase Utley. I’ve heard the suggestions, like everyone else has, for the past couple of years. “Put him in the outfield.” “Try him at first.” Aside from the obvious 250 pound issue at first in Ryan Howard, some of the suggestions made some sense.
Yesterday, Utley was spotted by WIP’s Rob Ellis and Glen Macnow fielding grounders at third base. The story quickly caught fire and Utley was confronted prior to last night’s game. To his credit, the usually tight lipped Utley confessed. It was his idea and he approached Ruben Amaro Jr. wondering if it would be an option for the team. Since then it has been reported that Utley and Amaro also discussed the outfield as an option.
The pros of Utley being able to field 3B are pretty plain. Utley wouldn’t need quite the range as he would need at 2nd which means his knees would take less of a pounding. He also wouldn’t be in the line of opposing players sliding hard into second trying to take him out. Utley could also give you more of a prototypical power third baseman. I’m not saying Utley is a power hitter, but he’ll certainly give you more pop than you’ve gotten there from Placido Polanco. It would give the Phillies greater flexibility and it would also open up a spot for Freddy Galvis, who maby fans and the organization seem to be high on. But this move would not necessarily be all good, either.
For instance, Utley played some third base in minor leagues. In 80 games at the hot corner, Utley made a staggering 28 errors. Now I’ll grant you that Utley is an experienced major leaguer now and probably a much more capable fielder, but that’s a lot of errors. The bottom line is that we’ve seen Chase Utley struggle at times with his throws from second base, how do you expect him to be able to deliver the ball all the way across the diamond with zip and precision?
Chase Utley is a true professional. I have little doubt that if Utley applied himself and worked hard over the long offseason ahead that he’d be able to field third base well. I’m just not sure that he has the arm strength to make the throws. If he can put it together, it could be a great step toward stabilizing the middle of the infield and prolonging the beloved infielder’s career. If he can’t, he could be a defensive liability on a team that has taken huge steps backward defensively this year.