Join in the cheesy fun as Beerleaguer gushes over the best second baseman in baseball.
In the next few days, you will read my full season preview in the form of five questions, which took the better part of three days to complete.
Later on, I’ll revisit my Top 25 Phillies with an all-new condensed list, one that won’t include Matt Kata and Shawn Garrett.
One player I didn’t have much opportunity to discuss was Chase Utley, the player Beerleaguer named Phillies MVP for the 2005 season.
The reason why is I’m satisfied our second baseman proved his star status beyond any doubt. His game-winning grand slam against San Francisco in the second game of "The Homestand" was a heavy moment, perhaps the heaviest of the season. At that moment, Chase had arrived, and the future of the entire organization looked that much brighter.
When the Phils needed a hit, Utley delivered. He ranked near the top of every offensive category among second basemen, first in baseball in OPS.
2006 has the feel of a sophomore season for Utley, the way it is for Ryan Howard and Charlie Manuel. While players like Jimmy Rollins are building on history, you get the feeling a player like Chase is taking another step toward destiny, which feels like a championship, or even World Series MVP.
By the end of his career, I’m convinced Utley will be remembered for two things: Snapshot moments, like his slam against San Fran, and great hitting. Power will rank third. Pitchers will not serve up as many pitches low and inside to Utley's zone. In the words of Chris Wheeler, he is a "dead-red lowball fastball hitter." Utley will adjust by working more balls the other way for hits. He has the potential to be a top five hitter.
The Phillies are also counting on him to be a leader, one who leads by example on the field, and one who sets clubhouse policy behind the scenes.
Defensively, he’s smart enough and athletic enough to make it a strength. Arm strength, turning the double play and getting over anxious have been the big knocks. He has improved this area significantly.
So let this serve as an addendum to my season preview, a reminder just how blessed we are to have Chase. No team in baseball has it this good at second base.