With Chase Utley on DL, Cesar Hernandez Proving he Belongs
Longtime Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is on the 15-day disabled list with right ankle inflammation. Utley, who is batting just .179, has a contract that includes a $15 million option for 2016 that will automatically vest if he reaches 500 plate appearances this season and is currently at 249.
But will he be back in the lineup everyday when he is back and ready to play?
"This ones dicey," ESPN.com senior baseball writer Jayson Stark sais on the Sports Bash. "The more I talk to people within the Phillies organization about this, it gets odder by the day. It's clear that everybody was surprised by Chase going on the DL. The were surprised by this as they were the manager resigning."
"Its not like Chase was in the training room everyday, he wasn't asking out of the lineup, it really sounds as though he initiated this," Stark said. "I've heard some theories on this, one theory is he wanted to get everyone around him off-the-hook about that option."
Utley went on the DL back on June 24, but could be ready to come back shortly after the all-star break. In the meantime, 25-year old Cesar Hernandez has been a big part of the team. Hernandez went 3-for-4 with a walk and two stolen bases, extending his hit streak to 10-games now, raising his batting average to .299 on the season. He also made a tremendous backhand play to help the team finish off their extra inning win over the Braves on Sunday.
"Hernandez has earned the right to play," Stark said. "He's a switch-hitter, who can run, controls at-bats. "I don't know if he's the second baseman of the future, but he has earned the right to play."
While Utley's stint on the disabled list decreases the likelihood that his $15 million option for 2016 will vest, Hernandez success on the field could keep Utley sitting on the bench in a new role when he returns.
The Phillies may be a long way away from returning to the playoff, but if they want to get back there they will need to quickly restock their again talent, like Utley, with young, fresh faces.
The Phillies could have the making of something in the infield with third baseman Maikel Franco, who just had a historic month of June, hitting .352 with eight homers and 24 RBIs.
Only four Phillies players in the last 50 years have posted number like that - Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard. Not to mention, Franco did it in his first full month in the big leagues.
Furthermore, there are only four other active players who have done what Franco just accomplished in their rookie seasons - Albert Pujols, Nick Markakis, James Loney and Mike Trout.
Pretty good company.
The Phillies are hoping that Franco, J.P. Crawford and now maybe Hernandez can be a part of a winning team in 2017.