Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Where Should You Draft Chase Utley?

Hello my fellow fantasy baseball compatriots. As part of FanHouse's roundtable series, it's time to discuss where all-world second baseman Chase Utley should be drafted in mixed leagues.

Opinions have varied as pitchers and catchers report, with Utley being drafted anywhere from mid-first round to top of the third round. In a recent expert mock draft at, Utley was selected 10th overall, but I've seen him get picked as high as sixth in the ongoing FSTA league draft.

It's a far cry from what fantasy pundits were first expecting from Utley as he recovers from hip surgery. In a Mock Draft Central expert draft in December, he dropped like a rock all the way till the fourth round.

Utley, who continues to aim for Opening Day, fielded ground balls Wednesday for the first time since undergoing that surgery in November. Will he bounce back this season without a hitch, or are some prospective owners starting to get a little too optimistic? Let the debate begin ...

Knox Bardeen: A healthy Chase Utley deserves to be the top second baseman taken off of the board in fantasy drafts, and he deserves to be a first-round selection. That being said, and even though he's already fielding ground balls and way ahead of rehab schedule, nobody knows for sure if Utley will be ready for Opening Day and if he'll be 100 percent. Without that certainty, Utley cannot be a first-round selection. The first round of fantasy drafts is about getting the biggest bang for your buck and staying as safe as possible. Drafting Utley isn't a safe way to start your draft.

I wouldn't even pull the trigger on Utley in the second round. You can just find much safer ways to put up big numbers. If he were available in the third round I think I would take a flier. He, most likely, will not be available in the third so you're either going to miss out on him or take him in the late first or second rounds.

My opinion is to let someone else take the risk on drafting Utley, unless he falls to the third round.

Matt Snyder: Another mitigating factor is the emergence of Ian Kinsler. In past years, Utley's been a first-round choice not necessarily because of his numbers on their own -- as impressive as they are -- but also due to the positional scarcity at second base. The gap between Utley and the, say, seventh second baseman was so big that he warranted a top-8 pick. Now, you could argue Kinsler is going to put up better stats this season, so why reach in the first round for someone who, as Knox said, isn't necessarily as healthy as he's been?

Take a look at the numbers ...

Chase Utley season totals last year: 113 R, 33 HR, 104 RBI, 14 SB, .292 avg.
Ian Kinsler pro-rated to full season stats: 136 R, 24 HR, 95 RBI, 34 SB, .319 avg.

Kinsler's gonna be 27 this year, while Utley's going to be 30 -- and Utley's hurt.

Bardeen: Especially when we're talking about the health of a player and how it affects draft status, is it really fair to compare Utley's "real" stats to Kinsler's pro-rated stats? Neither is a safe pick for the first round in '09 due to injuries from '08. In fact, Kinsler hasn't logged more than 130 games played in his three-year career because of injury issues.

Taking the risk factors of both Utley and Kinsler into consideration, I'd have to say Kinsler scares me more than Utley. I'm not taking either in the first round, but I'd surely take Utley before Kinsler right now. And if I had to take a second baseman in the second round I'd consider Dustin Pedroia over Utley and Kinsler.

Will Brinson: The whole point of drafting a potentially injured superstar is that you're supposed to get him at a great discount. Yes, this can be relative. But in the end, if you're willing to take a gamble on a guy who's falling because of injury, the upside, in terms of his position, should be tremendous. Since Utley appears to be going at only a slight discount, I'm perfectly willing to pass on that basis alone.

Snyder: I totally agree. If you play in a league where everyone is scared of Utley's injury and he falls to the third round, that's an absolute steal. If you play with a bunch of Phillies fans and he gets picked eighth, well, just be happy it wasn't you. Also, there's a possibility that having hip surgery takes away his mid-teens stolen base potential this year.

Going back to the expert drafts. I'd love him in the fourth round, obviously, and can't understand how he could go sixth overall. I think he's going to fall around 20th overall for me when we work through overall rankings.

Andrew Johnson: Utley's situation this year reminds of Albert Pujols' last year. Pujols, if you recall, had ligament damage in his elbow, and his draft status took a bit of a hit. Prince Albert is one of the toughest players in baseball -- a guy who has played through injury after injury in his career -- and as we all know he had one of his best seasons yet. You know who else is one of the toughest guys in baseball? Chase Utley.

I'm not convinced he'll be ready for Opening Day, but I think he'll only miss a few weeks, and I have no doubt when he's back on the field his pain tolerance will help him produce at a high level. In other words, he's still a first-rounder for me. I do think he's a late first-rounder, though, because Snyder's points about positional scarcity are well taken. There's actually some depth at second base this year with guys like Pedroia, Kinsler and Brian Roberts, but Utley is still at the head of the class.

Herrera: Just to give you a small window into the stress over positional scarcity, Kinsler was drafted 12th at that FSTA draft I mentioned, while Pedroia was snagged right behind him at 13th. All things considered, I think that guys like Alexei Ramirez and Brandon Phillips ultimately present better value opportunities.

Now, if Utley's available at the beginning of the second round, I'm going to be hard pressed to take him. But settling for Phillips or Ramirez in the third is really not going to hurt your team all that much, assuming it's standard scoring in mixed leagues. In fact, the drop-off doesn't really hit until after Roberts, then you're mixing with the likes of Rickie Weeks and Kelly Johnson if you want a five-category guy. Overall, I'm with Knox and Matt on this one.

Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Where Should You Draft Chase Utley? originally appeared on MLB FanHouse on Mon, 16 Feb 2009 02:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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