Since 2010, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has been anything but dependable. From 2005-09, Utley was by far the best at his position in baseball, but tore a ligament in his thumb in 2010, requiring surgery. He then developed patellar tendinitis in his right knee in 2011, and patellar chondromalacia in his left knee in 2012. Last season, he strained his oblique and had to go on the disabled list for a fourth consecutive season.
No one doubted Chase’s talent, but they did doubt his ability to stay healthy, his ability to avoid the effects of Father Time, and his ability to avoid the toll his previous injuries had taken on him. Through the Phillies’ first 12 games, Utley has put any skepticism to rest. In Sunday afternoon’s game against the Marlins, Utley went 3-for-4, breaking a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth with a no-doubt home run off of lefty reliever Mike Dunn, his third home run of the season. Utley now has a 15-game hitting streak dating back to last season, and has multiple hits in each of his last four games (and in seven out of his 10 games total). His slash line sits at a cool .500/.565/.875 in 46 plate appearances.
The Sabermetrics paint an even better picture. Through this afternoon’s games, Utley leads the league in weighted on-base average at .609, ahead of Freddie Freeman’s .558. Last year’s average for a second baseman in the National League was .311. Utley has drawn walks in 11 percent of his plate appearances and struck out in only four percent of them. His .375 isolated power (which is just slugging percentage minus batting average) shows Chris Davisian power — Davis finished at .348 encapsulating all of last season.
Obviously, Utley is going to come back down to earth at some point but the Phillies, who signed him to a two-year extension with three vesting options through 2018 last August, will take any surplus production they can get from him. Utley, by the way, is also padding his Hall of Fame case.
Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.
Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.
It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”
Things have gone from bad to worse for Red Sox’ outfielder Brock Holt, who was shut down “for the foreseeable future” on Friday after meeting with head trauma specialist Michael Collins. The Red Sox placed Holt on the 10-day disabled list in April after he began experiencing vertigo, the latest in a series of head injuries he’s sustained since last spring.
According to the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato, the outfielder was initially advised to attempt playing through his symptoms, but it quickly became apparent that the strategy wasn’t going to work. Now, the plan is to shut him down from any game activity in the hopes that he’ll be able to recover from all lingering symptoms before returning to the roster. Club manager John Farrell told reporters that the 28-year-old is still cleared to take batting practice and work on his defense, but won’t continue his rehab starts in Triple-A Pawtucket for the time being.
Holt had been making regular appearances for the Pawtucket Red Sox and was batting .209/.292/.372 with two home runs through 14 games this spring. This season marks his fifth run within the Red Sox’ organization. He experienced a bit of a slump at the plate in 2016 and slashed .255/.322/.383 after breaking out during his first All-Star year in 2015.
Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe suggests that the team’s concern for Holt extends past his setbacks at the plate. It’s still a long road to a full recovery, and while Farrell told reporters he believes the outfielder is on track to make a return sometime in 2017, he’ll need to make sure that Holt is both physically and mentally prepared to do so.