Top Prospect #3: 2B Chase Utley

<I>Because Chase Utley's roster spot with the Phillies isn't guaranteed, we have included him in our list of Top 50 Prospects.</I> The Phillies find themselves in an interesting position. With both Placido Polanco and Chase Utley in camp, the Phillies have two quality second basemen and either could wind up as the Phillies starting second baseman. Chase Utley's short-term future rests with the health of David Bell.

For much of the winter, it looked as though Chase Utley would be nearly a lock on the Phillies roster. The theory was that with David Bell coming off a serious back and hip injury, Placido Polanco might wind up back at third base, which would open up the second base job for Utley. Worst case scenario for Utley seemed to be that he would wait in the wings and be used as a pinch-hitter at the major league level.

The Phillies decided to take one last look at free agents and found Doug Glanville still unsigned. The Philadelphia native seemed to be the Phillies best hope of finding a little speed to replace the departed Nick Punto on the Phillies bench. Even though the roster seemed set, the Phillies decided to go after Glanville and signed him to a one-year deal. Now, with Glanville back in town and David Bell reportedly healthy, Chase Utley could well wind up back at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

Utley has had a varied experience since being drafted by the Phillies with the first overall pick in the 2000 Draft. He has gone from being their second baseman of the future to shifting to third base with the trade of Scott Rolen. Then, with the signing of David Bell, he was back to being their second baseman of the future except for one problem; Placido Polanco. The good news for Utley is that Polanco is in the final year of his contract, so his stay in Philadelphia might not be long-term. The other scenario is that the Phillies would consider signing Polanco long-term and trading Utley to get another useful part of the puzzle.

Utley doesn't have much more to prove at the AAA level, but it may actually be better for him than sitting on the Phillies bench. At least that's the official line from the Phillies. Truth is that since Utley won't learn much more at AAA, he would be better served to be in the majors even if he did play part-time. Even if David Bell is healthy, Larry Bowa has said that he wants to protect him with occasional days off, meaning that Utley would get a shot at playing second base on those days. There would likely be enough at bats to keep Utley sharp and also give him the benefit of learning how things work in the majors. The Phillies believe though that if he goes back to Scranton and puts up big numbers, his trade value could escalate a little more.

The Phillies addition of Glanville is somewhat understandable, but the fact that it will likely keep Chase Utley off the major league roster makes it questionable. Of course, a lot can happen before the start of the season, so don't exactly count out Chase Utley.


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