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5 most indispensable players in the AL Central

August 22, 2018

In this week's divisional notebook, we examine each American League Central team's "Most Indispensable Player."This, of course, is not to be confused with the Most Valuable Player on each team. The MIP may or may not be a team's best player, but he likely is the player who is the

In this week's divisional notebook, we examine each American League Central team's "Most Indispensable Player."
This, of course, is not to be confused with the Most Valuable Player on each team. The MIP may or may not be a team's best player, but he likely is the player who is the most difficult to replace because of the gap in talent between he and his backup.
With that in mind, here's a look at the AL Central's MIPs:

Indians: Jose Ramirez
While it is difficult to choose between Francisco Lindor and Ramirez for this one, Ramirez gets the edge due to his contract. Cleveland has its AL MVP Award candidate locked up on a five-year, $26 million deal that includes team options for 2022 ($11 million) and '23 ($13 million). Given the type of player Ramirez has blossomed into for the Tribe, that's incredible value. Lindor is under control through '21, but it's unclear if he will sign a long-term pact or keep going year to year in anticipation of a big free-agent payday. That makes Ramirez, 25, all the more important, especially given his ability to handle either second or third base down the road.

Royals: Salvador Perez
One could make the case for super utility man Whit Merrifield, because he is of such tremendous value to any manager. Merrifield can play all infield and outfield positions, and he can play them well. But the nod here goes to Perez -- you can't replace a catcher who is a six-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove Award winner and the 2015 World Series Most Valuable Player. Perez also is the team's undeniable cheerleader/leader, and when he is not in the lineup, the Royals' batting order simply doesn't look right. Kansas City has some talented catchers in the system -- such as MJ Melendez, the team's No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline. But Melendez likely is a few years away. Perez is indispensable until then.

Tigers: Nicholas Castellanos
The Tigers will probably find out what life is like without Castellanos sooner or later. After all, he's a free agent after next season, and Detroit is rebuilding. For now, however, Castellanos is the fulcrum of their lineup, the one big bat they have that can produce runs with one swing. He's also the closest the Tigers have to a leader who can keep the team upbeat as the losses mount. Jose Cabrera's eventual return could change this, but while he's out, Detroit needs Castellanos.

Twins: Jose Berrios
Berrios, an All-Star for the first time this year, is continuing his progression into a front-line starter, following up his breakout 2017 with another impressive season. He has incredible stuff, including a nearly unhittable curveball with frisbee-like action, though he runs into trouble when he doesn't command his fastball. Berrios is noted as one of the hardest workers on the team and regularly posts his offseason workouts to his social media pages. He's the kind of starter the Twins have been trying to develop for years, and he still has room to improve on an already stellar start to his career.

White Sox: Carlos Rodon
Since the start of July, Rodon has been one of the most dominant starting pitchers in all of baseball. Rodon is pitching with the confidence of someone who knows he's completely healthy, after undergoing season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery last September and rehabbing his way back. He has one of the game's top sliders, and combined with pitching ahead of hitters and a fastball capable of touching the high 90s, he's a tough matchup for any opponent. The White Sox are loaded with top young pitching prospects, but none of them have the experience possessed by Rodon. Having Rodon at the top of that rotation moving into 2019 puts less pressure on those to follow such as Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.