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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fantasy baseball: Analyzing Chase Utley's value

Entering last season, Chase Utley was a top five overall choice in fantasy baseball.

This season, he gave us the possibility of being a mid-round bargain because of a knee injury we were told would wipe out the first couple months of his season.

Utley returned Monday and was 0-for-5 with a strikeout against the Reds. If you drafted him, he might have started the week on your bench, and that could be a good thing.

Utley is 32, reportedly has a chronic condition in his knee, and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said Utley likely won't play five times in a six-game span.

Last season, he was limited to 425 at-bats and batted .275 (18 points below his career norm) with 16 homers, 65 RBI, 75 runs, 13 steals and an .832 OPS.

If you drafted Utley expecting him to be anything close to the player who averaged 32 homers, 99 RBI and 113 runs in 2008 and '09, you almost certainly will be disappointed.

Utley was never a huge stolen-base threat. Aside from his 23-steal 2009, his next-highest total in the category was 16 in 2005. I'm going to go out on a Shaq-sized limb and say he won't be running a lot as he returns from a serious knee injury.

Utley, if he's operating at, say, 80 to 90 percent, might provide the biggest value to owners in the power department.

Second base is a deep position in 2011, but it doesn't have a ton of home-run threats. Of the second-base eligible players in fantasy leagues entering Tuesday, only five had hit seven or more homers. And one was the Angels' Howard Kendrick, whose career high is 10 homers. Another is the Braves' Dan Uggla, who is batting .185 and shouldn't be considered a starter in 12-team mixed leagues.

However, 11 players eligible at second had driven in at least 20 runs, and 12 had six more more steals.

All of which means Utley isn't a given to be a starter in 10- and 12-team mixed leagues.

For the time being, I'd consider him outside the top 10 at his position.

A sure sign of Utley's value plummeting: Whom would you rather have right now, Utley or the Cubs' Darwin Barney?

It's been that kind of season.

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