Four-for-Four: The Chase Utley Damage-Control Edition

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Chatty Chase

Starting with a Monday appearance on the WIP Morning Show, it seems that Chase Utley has spent more time talking to the media in the last five days than he has over the course of his 11-year career with the Phillies. He has discussed everything from his own health to the state of Major League Baseball in relations to the Alex Rodriguez saga. Whether it has been with’s Ken Rosenthal, his time controlling the team’s twitter account, or any number of conversations with local media there has been one constant in all of Utley’s appearances: he expects the team to contend and Philadelphia is awesome.

We don’t know, and never will know if the organization has asked Chase to carry the banner for a team that has seen their win total plummet the last two seasons. What we do know, and the Phillies franchise knows as well, is that when Chase talks, people listen. In the last few offseasons, we have heard big talk from Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, and Jimmy Rollins only to be disappointed when the team could not make good on their preseason expectations. Still, while all three of those players have been held in high regard through the Phillies fanbase, Utley is the one untouchable when it comes to criticism.

Could this sudden spike in conversation be Utley finally becoming the vocal leader of the team, a position that Jimmy Rollins seems to have lost grips with? Maybe. Or perhaps, with the organization wanting to put their best foot forward in terms of attendance and energy at the ballpark, this is the Phillies using their knight in shining armor to instill confidence in a fanbase that is seemingly losing interest.

I would like to think its the former and that Utley’s competitiveness has forced him to come out of his shell a bit and rally the troops in a way he never has had to. Still, there is a part of me that wonders how a sports figure in Philadelphia of all cities, who has managed to stay out of the media for over a decade, all of a sudden won’t shut up. I’m not saying I don’t Utley being a bit more vocal and if it helps restore some of the energy and enthusiasm in the clubhouse, I’m all for it. However, Utley became the icon in this city he is more for what he did on the field and what he didn’t say than being the type of ‘Ra Ra’ rallying point that some of his teammates have been in the past. Call me paranoid for thinking the organization had anything to do with this, just consider it food for thought.

Franco to First

With the Phillies going through struggles not seen at the major league level since the early 2000s, one has had to divert attention elsewhere within the organization to try to distract from the substandard product on the field. In 2013, there was perhaps no better diversion of watching the team on the field than following the team’s top prospect Maikel Franco. The third baseman out of the Dominican Republic busted out during his 2013 campaign, putting together a tremendous season on both the Single-A and Double-A level. Franco hit .320 with 31 home runs and 103 RBIs (one of only four minor leaguers to hit 30 HR/100 RBI). His efforts were enough that the MLB named Franco their “Breakout Prospect of the Year”. 

Despite fielding his position relatively well and showcasing a major league arm, Franco does come along with some limitations as far as playing third base. Questionable foot speed hinders the type of range necessary to play the ‘hot corner’ at the highest level and, with Cody Asche demonstrating an exceptional defensive ability at the same position, one had to wonder where Franco fit in the team’s future plans. That question was partially answered this week, with Spring Training right over the horizon.

Franco will join the team in Clearwater for Spring Training but, barring an effort that cannot be ignored, will most likely start the year in Reading with the team’s double-A affiliate. It only makes sense that the organization, still holding onto hope that Ryan Howard can regain some of his form at the plate, allow their best prospect to gain more seasoning at a new position without the pressure of competing at the big league level. The move to first would negate some of the question marks about Franco’s lack of foot speed. Should Franco continue to dominate the Minor Leagues like he did last year, it will be impossible for the organization to keep him from joining the Phillies. It will be interesting to see if learning a new position interferes with his ability at the plate. If it does not, we could see him donning a Phillies uniform sooner rather than later.

TV Money at Work

Sep 13, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (38) reacts after giving up a home run to Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos (background) during the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The headline is infinitely more exciting than the actual story, and the headline isn’t very exciting. Nevertheless, the Phillies did recently announce they avoided arbitration with pitcher Kyle Kendrick and utility player John Mayberry. The Phillies have now taken care of two of the four players that filed for arbitration, with Ben Revere and Antonio Bastardo being the remaining unsettled cases.

Kendrick, whose one-year deal pays him $7.675 million with potential for bonuses, went 10-13 in 2013 with a 4.70 ERA before being shut down late in the season. At 29 years old, much of what we have seen with Kendrick is what we can expect in the future. There are times where he looks like a competent fourth starter on a good rotation and there are times where he looks as if he does not belong on the field. That said, Kendrick has grown within the organization and put in a fair career given a lack of overwhelming talent.

Mayberry, once seen as a potential everyday outfielder, will receive roughly a $1 million raise from his 2013 salary. At $1,587,500, Mayberry will remain with the Phillies for at least another season. Since showing some early promise in his career, Mayberry has been largely a disappointment with 2013 being arguably his worst showing as a professional. He hit just .227, 11 home runs, and 39 RBIs in 134 games.

Despite his struggles at the plate, Mayberry can play every outfield position and first base. He flashes occasional power and, for a small price tag, is a cheap option off the bench.

Face it, Phillies fans. This is the type of news we have to look forward to until the organization decides to start things over from scratch, or begin their inevitable spending spree starting in the not-so-distant future. Until then, drink in the mediocrity.