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Even in the best year for young players maybe ever, not every hyped minor-leaguer who comes down the prospect pipeline is worthy of a spot on your Fantasy roster. For every star prospect who has come up and sparkled, there has been a Joey Gallo, who has had trouble finding his footing, or even an Arismendy Alcantara, who has fallen flat on his face.
Byron Buxton joined with Miguel Sano to give the Twins arguably the best prospect duo in baseball, but Buxton largely failed to make an impact in his first run through the majors. He made an undeniable impression with his speed, but he struck out 15 times in 39 plate appearances before a thumb injury sent him to the DL -- and eventually back to the minors. With that in his recent history, Fantasy owners would be forgiven for having taken him off their radars heading down the stretch. That might be a mistake.
The Twins have been right in the thick of the playoff hunt all season long, but a recent slide has left them with a .500 record. Though they are just 3.0 games back of the second wild card spot, it wouldn't be a surprise if they started to turn at least one eye toward the future, where Buxton promises to feature prominently. Whether they wait until rosters expand Sept. 1 or call him up sooner, Buxton figures to be back in the majors, and he could help Fantasy owners whenever he does.
We can mostly throw out those 39 plate appearances when judging him, I think. If the history of guys like Maikel Franco, Rougned Odor and J.T. Realmuto -- more on him in a minute -- tells us anything, it's that small-sample size struggles don't doom young players at all. Buxton is still the guy we were all so excited to see upon his initial call-up, and he has hit safely in each game since going back to the minors, with 13 hits in eight games, so the talent is clearly still there.
Whenever Buxton gets the call to come back to the Twins, he should again be someone you look for in Fantasy. And, if you've got a roster spot to spare, getting ahead of the competition by adding Buxton could make the difference for you in the Fantasy playoffs.
Carlos Rodon, White Sox (62 percent owned)
Talk about a rookie who has struggled to live up to expectations. Rodon shows tantalizing glimpses of his potential from time to time, most notably in his recent 11-strikeout domination of the Angels earlier in the week. Rodon has yet to put it all together for even more than a few starts in a row, but he has just six walks in his last four starts, a very solid sign for a player who has struggled with control. In fact, though the results haven't been totally impressive since the All-Star break, his 33-strikeout-to-10-walk ratio is a very good sign for his future success. With a slider that could one day stand alone as the best pitch in baseball, the upside here is obvious. You can't rely on him on a regular basis, but with two starts on the way in Week 20 (Aug. 17-23) -- in the two of the best pitcher's parks in the AL -- now might be the time to roll the dice.
J.T. Realmuto, Marlins (26 percent owned)
Realmuto's overall season line doesn't look too hot. He's hit for solid power (.156 ISO), but his .255 average and .285 on-base percentage are hardly anything to write home about. It makes sense that more than three-fourths of CBSSports.com leagues have yet to find an owner willing to give him a roster spot when you look at it that way. Like Buxton, he Realmuto got off to a very rough start to his season, hitting .213/.243/.346, with only two homers in 35 starts in April and May. Since? The 24-year-old has found his footing, hitting .287 with five homers and 25 RBI in his past 46 starts, and actually ranks eighth among catchers in Roto scoring since June 1. That's a bit of an arbitrary endpoint, but with young players, it maybe isn't so arbitrary; sometimes the light just clicks on. With solid power, run production and even some speed, Realmuto is worth owning at least in all two-catcher leagues.
Greg Bird, Yankees (7 percent owned)
Yet another rookie, only this one hasn't failed in the majors -- yet. Bird isn't nearly the prospect Buxton or Rodon are, but the Yankees did essentially make him untouchable in trade talks at the deadline, so they clearly see a lot to like in him. And Fantasy owners should too, as the 22-year-old has a .301/.353/.500 triple-slash line at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. He could one day be a solid Fantasy option at first base, with 'Healthy Nick Johnson' upside, but he isn't likely to see a long stay with the team this time around. Barring an injury to Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez, Bird doesn't seem likely to see a ton of playing time. However, if you're in an AL-only or keeper league, it might be worth putting him on your radar now -- Rodriguez and Teixeira don't have the best track records with injuries.