2011 Fantasy Outlook: What to make of Chase Utley’s knee

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Man, Chase Utley has become a yearly case study for fantasy owners, hasn’t he?

Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley waits on a pitch against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 2, 2010 in Denver. The Phillies lead the NL Wild Card race. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Two years ago Utley was coming off offseason hip surgery and owners were afraid to draft him, even at a thin second base position. Last year, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained thumb at the end of June and for the first time in five years he failed to score at least 90 runs.

Now there are reports that the patellar tendonitis that he’s been battling in his knee may be worse than the Phillies initially thought. He recently received a cortisone injection and even GM Ruben Amaro said the knee hasn’t responded as the club hoped it would. The second baseman took batting practice over the weekend, but there’s no timetable for his participation in spring games and therefore, fantasy owners are left with yet another Chase Utley conundrum.

Assuming you were planning on targeting him before the knee injury became an even bigger concern, do you still draft him in the second round (which is what his ADP is in a 12-team league)? Do you pass on him altogether and target the next best options in Dustin Pedroia, Dan Uggla or Ian Kinsler? Do you hope he falls and then scoop him up later when he represents more value?

Hopefully the situation will become clearer the closer we get to Opening Day. If it’s revealed that Utley will miss the first two months of the season, then obviously you’ll have to alter your draft strategy (as in, don’t take him in the second round and be the butt of your buddies’ jokes for the next five years). But if there’s still a cloud of uncertainty surrounding his health, you could wait to see if he falls into the third or even fourth round and then take him when his value far exceeds his draft position. (After all, we’re talking about a guy that when healthy, will produce a stat line around .285-100-25-90-15 at a thin position.)

The key is to pay close attention to the spring training reports so that you can better assess his worth on draft day. You don’t want to invest a second round pick in a player that will either a) miss a significant amount of time and thus leave you with Omar Infante for half a season or b) battle a troublesome knee all year and make you wish you had Omar Infante.

But passing on Utley altogether just because there are some concerns about his knee wouldn’t be wise. Maybe in a week or two you can hit the panic button, but for now play it cool and you could wind up drafting a key player much lower than he was originally supposed to go.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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