Closing Time: Is Byron Buxton ready this time?

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Closing Time: Is Byron Buxton ready this time?
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The post-hype sleeper is dead. Long live the next post-hype sleeper. 

We’ve been having a roto party with Aaron Hicks, Minnesota’s snappy outfielder, but the story came to a halt Wednesday in The Bronx. Hicks suffered a left-hamstring injury in the sixth inning of Minnesota’s loss to the Yankees, and he was subsequently placed on the 15-day disabled list. Rotoheads will feel a sting on this one, as Hicks has been a Top 24 outfielder over the last month (.277-18-5-16-2), ultimately settling in as the team’s leadoff man. 

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Maybe it’s a stretch to call Byron Buxton a true post-hype case – he’s still considered the top hitting prospect in all of baseball. In other words, these are the present-hype days. Alas, Buxton didn’t do much with the Twins during an earlier cup of coffee (.189 average, 15 strikeouts in 11 games), but perhaps the 21-year-old is ready to make an impact now. 

Buxton missed about six weeks with a busted thumb, and the Twins decided to send him to Triple-A, not the big-league club, when the smoke cleared in early August. But Buxton’s been on a tear with Rochester, a .400 binge through two weeks of play.

The Twins are desperately hoping to stay in the wild card race in the AL, and they’ll give Buxton a shot to play right away. He's capable of being a difference-maker on the bases right away, and he might show some pop, too. 

If you’re in the move to roll the bones, Buxton is a free agent in about 75 percent of Yahoo leagues. 

• The Dodgers have a handful of problems right now – an injured second baseman, a slumping center fielder, the looming Giants. The latter issue won’t go away anytime soon, but a trade on Wednesday addressed the first two issues. 

L.A. made the move for veteran 2B Chase Utley, sending two prospects (Darnell Sweeney, John Richy) to Philadelphia in exchange for the 36-year-old infielder. Utley will be reunited with Jimmy Rollins, his former double-play partner in Philly, and he’ll settle in as a starter while Howie Kendrick rehabs his hamstring injury. 

Utley’s seasonal numbers are in the toilet, but he’s been a different player since his return from an ankle injury. He’s on a 15-for-31 tear over his last eight games, with a 1.227 OPS. Maybe that .179 first half can’t be taken at face value. Utley was a respectable .270/.339/.407 stick last year, with 11 homers and 10 steals. 

Enrique Hernandez had been the temporary second basemen for the Dodgers, but he’ll probably get a new assignment: center field. Rookie flash Joc Pederson has been in a monstrous slump for two months, posting a messy .173/.332/.311 line with 71 strikeouts. You can’t blame the club for wanting to go in a different direction, at least for now. Hernandez has been a pleasant surprise through his 61-game sample, posting an .863 OPS with six homers. 

Utley is owned in 37 percent of Yahoo leagues, while the versatile Hernandez (three positional tags) trades at seven percent. Start your engines. 

Jackie Jr. (Topps)
Jackie Jr. (Topps)

• 

Back to the post-hype song we love to sing, how about Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Red Sox? He’s been an angelic defensive outfielder for his entire pro career, but his bat has been suspect for a couple of years now.

Perhaps he’s finally turned a corner in 2015. Bradley, 25, posted a super .305/.382/.472 line with nine homers in 71 Triple-A games, and he’s been a dynamo for the Red Sox in the second half (.1.037 OPS over 68 plate appearances, three home runs). You probably noticed his two-homer, seven-RBI jamboree against Seattle last weekend, and he had a three-run jack in Wednesday’s victory over Seattle. 

The Red Sox don’t have an obvious place for Bradley to play now that Hanley Ramirez is back on the field, but the way Hanley’s hobbling around these days, I’m not confident he’ll be playing much longer. And given where Boston sits in the standings, it might as well let kids like Bradley play  this season should be about development and evaluation. Bradley actually reminds me a lot of Hicks, another 25-year-old outfielder who finally started to hit this year after a couple of fizzled tryouts. 

Bradley is still ready for a tire-kick in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues. There’s a pedigree here, and it wasn’t entirely built on his defense. Keep an open mind.