The real Chase Utley?
A look at the second baseman's past, present and future
1. Chase Utley is hitting. But is he back for good?
David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield), SweetSpot: I don't think we'll ever see the Utley of 2005-09 again simply because of age and better pitching across the league. But he's healthy, which means better numbers than the past couple of seasons.
Michael Baumann (@MJ_Baumann), Crashburn Alley: I have faith that Utley will continue to mash as long as he's healthy, but I don't have much faith that he'll stay healthy for long. Utley is a 34-year-old with a history of lower-body injuries -- those guys tend not to get durable again all of a sudden.
Matt Meyers (@mtmeyers), ESPN.com: It will be hard for Utley to recapture his form of a few years ago, but that's only because he was one of the top five or 10 players in the game at the time. He's getting up in age, but he's so good that I could see him getting some down-ballot MVP votes if the Phillies stay relevant.
2. Assuming Utley continues this type of play all season, does he have a Hall of Fame case?
Schoenfield: Utley's five- and six-year peak WAR totals are among the best ever for a second baseman, but his first big year didn't come until he was 26, so unless he continues playing well for another four to five years, he's going to fall short in the career numbers that Hall of Fame voters love.
Baumann: He's got a Hall of Fame case if he never plays another game. Utley doesn't have much longevity, but what a peak: He was the league's best defender at an up-the-middle position and has a 126 career OPS+. Jay Jaffe's JAWS Hall of Fame prediction system puts him in the conversation right now.
Meyers: In the strictest statistical definition, he has a case, but I don't think he will ever come close to sniffing the Hall of Fame. Players who excel in a variety of areas but don't have one standout skill tend to suffer in Hall of Fame and awards voting, and Utley knows this firsthand from watching teammates Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins win MVPs when he had better seasons.
3. Utley is a free agent next winter. Where do you see him playing in 2014?
Schoenfield: If the Dodgers don't end up with Robinson Cano, I could see Utley returning to his Long Beach roots and signing with them. I think Cano ends up back with the Yankees, so I see Utley heading west.
Baumann: Philadelphia. Ruben Amaro is a big fan of choosing the devil he knows over the devil he doesn't, and with 11 seasons' worth of history already in the bank there, I'd be surprised to see Utley finish his career elsewhere.
Meyers: I have a hunch that the Phillies are going to rebuild after this season, and that begins by letting both Utley and Roy Halladay walk. I agree with Schoenfield: I think the Dodgers are a great call for Utley. He will be the consolation prize when they can't pry Cano from the Yankees.
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