Player Projection: Chase Utley

Chase Utley will be a key part of the Phillies offense in 2006 and well beyond. It wasn't that long ago that teams were doing their best to put together a deal to pry Utley away from the Phillies and now, Phillies fans are seeing why they were so hot on his trail.

Chase Utley is hitting .385 (5-for-13) as a member of Team USA in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. The 27 year old will eventually return to the Phillies knowing that he is their everyday secondbaseman. It's the first time in his career that he's come into camp knowing that he has a job and that it's not going to someone else, namely, Placido Polanco.

Utley and Howard are both enjoying their first spring as certain major leaguers. They will form the right side of the Phillies infield for some time to come and figure to be part of the cornerstone of the team that can be built around both now and in the future. That certainty should do a lot to ease Utley's mind and as he settles in, his stats over a full season should be impressive.

This spring has already been exciting for Utley as a member of Team USA. Actually, what could have been his fondest memory of the spring turned into just a long out in a game against Canada. Utley hit a long fly ball to center field off Phillies' prospect Scott Mathieson that seemed destined to give Team USA the lead in the game. Instead, it was caught at the fence for a long out, letting Mathieson off the hook and leaving Utley with one of those bittersweet memories.

Homeruns: Utley hit 28 homeruns last season and figures to stay in the 25-30 homerun range throughout his career. If all goes well, he could surpass the 30 homerun mark in a few seasons, but figure that his 2005 number in homeruns is right around where he'll be throughout his career.

RBI: Utley could jump to the fourth spot in the lineup against right-handers and figures to hit fifth against lefties. He should have plenty of runners on base ahead of him to drive in and could well build on his 105 RBI mark from 2005.

AVG / OBP: Utley simply knows how to hit. He puts the ball in play and while he struck out 109 times last season, that's not a bad mark for the power output that he provides. It will be interesting to see how he responds hitting higher in the order.

Projections for 2006

30 118 .287 152 561 102 161 40 8 18 73 111 .374

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