That 1 player each team would be lost without

March 7th, 2024

Baseball is, famously, a sport that is about more than just any one player. Barry Bonds and Ted Williams have authored some of the most incredible seasons imaginable, but they never won a World Series; slap-hitting 1960s shortstop Dal Maxvill had a career 57 OPS+ and nevertheless won four. The whole point of the sport is to pick up your teammates; if you fall short, there’s someone right behind you. Next man up.

But it’s fair to say that there are some players whose teams would be truly devastated to lose them if they were to go down for an extended period of time. In other words, they’re indispensable.

What makes an indispensable player? Maybe he’s just that team’s best player; maybe it’s because there’s no good backup option available; maybe it’s because his skills mask a huge weakness; maybe it’s because he’s the emotional leader of the team. Whatever the reason, his team would be in big trouble without him.

Here's a look at each team’s most indispensable player for 2024.


Blue Jays: , SS
You might wish he drew a few more walks, one supposes, but the difference between what the Blue Jays look like when Bichette is fully healthy and in the lineup every day and what they look like when he’s hindered or injured is dramatic. Of all the talented Blue Jays hitters, he’s the one they rely on the most.

Orioles: , C
He’s older than you might think -- he’s a year older than Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and six years older than Jackson Holliday -- but he’s still only 26 and plays like he has been in the Majors for two decades. The Orioles are ludicrously stacked with young talent, but it’s Rutschman who has been the North Star leading to a better future for Orioles fans. He already feels like the wizened leader of this team and the center of everything they do.

Rays: , OF
Time is passing fast, everybody. The incredible rookie we saw in the 2020 postseason, the one who was hitting homers everywhere and made you think he was Babe Ruth reincarnated (but fast and Cuban), is now 29 years old and as much of a veteran presence as it feels like the Rays have had since Evan Longoria. He’s the spark plug and the leader of this team.

Red Sox: , 3B
With all the turnover and tumult the Red Sox have endured in recent years, Devers has been the constant, just the guy calmly knocking the ball around stadiums all across baseball. He’s still only 27 but seems like he’s been around Fenway forever. The Red Sox have had a lot to worry about the last few years. They’ve never had to worry about Devers.

Yankees: , SP
On a team with more than its fair share of candidates -- and the Yankees surely have found out what happens when Aaron Judge isn’t in the lineup -- it’s Cole’s ability to put together quantity and quality of innings that has made him irreplaceable. How in the world would the Yankees fill out their rotation without him?


Guardians: , 3B
The Guardians have enough trouble hitting the ball over the wall with Ramírez, who is slowly building his case to be one of the best hitters in franchise history. Without him in the lineup every day, it would be that much more difficult. Ramírez remains criminally underrated outside Cleveland. But in Cleveland, they know.

Royals: , SS
The Royals have a lot of work to do in the coming years, and it sure does look like they’re making some progress. But as the extension they gave to Witt shows, they realize there’s no real path for them without locking in their best player and immediate franchise icon. Everything they do for the next decade will be built around him.

Tigers: , OF
Greene put together superstar-quality stretches last year (1.008 OPS in May, .943 in July) but also served multiple stints on the injured list and battled some inconsistency. He ultimately played only 99 games, and the Tigers were a different team when he wasn’t on the field. Remember, too, he’s the youngest of their triumvirate of young hitting stars (soon to be joined by , for that matter). He, like his team, is just going to keep getting better.

Twins: , SP
The source of the Twins’ success, both in the regular season and the postseason, were the two starters they had atop their rotation. One of them, , now pitches in St. Louis. The remaining one, López, is perhaps now twice as important as he was last year.

White Sox: , CF
Robert finally stayed healthy for a full season last year, and we saw the results on glorious display. It remains up in the air what the future holds for this franchise, but Robert sure looks like their most valuable asset.


Angels: , CF
For years, the maxim has been that if the Angels could just put an average roster around a healthy and productive Trout, they could be a playoff team. Even without , that remains true.

Astros: , OF
At this point, “Underrated and Underappreciated” should probably just be appended to Tucker’s name. But for a team that is getting older but still (quite reasonably!) has championship aspirations, Tucker is the rock -- a guy who is just fantastic at everything you can do on a baseball field. And at 27, he’s just starting to approach his peak right now.

Athletics: , 2B
During a dim 2023 season for the A’s, Gelof was a bright light -- for the present and for the future. For a team looking for something to hold onto, Gelof is the sort of young talent that can still get people excited ... and he’s the sort of player who’s an absolute blast to cheer for.

Mariners: , OF
We saw last August and September how he can nearly carry a team to the playoffs by himself. Imagine if he plays like that all season. Considering he’s still just 23 years old, that may happen sooner rather than later. And more to the point: Can you imagine the Mariners franchise without him? Every bolt of lightning -- every trident -- this team produces comes from him. He’s the guy everybody wants to see when the Mariners are in town.

Rangers: , 2B
is the better overall player, has the juice right now, and the rotation is packed with potential future Hall of Famers ... whenever they all arrive. But Semien is the guy the Rangers can always count on, a guy who plays every game, effectively, every night. He led the AL in hits and runs last year. No matter what’s going on with the rest of this club, Semien is always there, helping his team win.


Braves: , CF
Harris might seem like a bit of a reach considering how many superstars play for this team, but it’s worth remembering how much his ability to play center field instantly changed this team when he was called up in 2022. With firmly planted in right field, Atlanta’s center fielders ranked 28th in MLB in WAR in 2021, but they’re in the top 10 since. Harris’ presence shored up the outfield defense and it gave them an extra offensive producer and glue guy in the lineup. There’s no real replacement for a lot of the players on the Braves, but losing Harris II would force them to change basic aspects of what make them the Braves.

Marlins: , 2B
Upon arriving in Miami, Arraez became, almost immediately, the team’s most consistent hitter, its emotional engine and its best player. The Marlins always are a little starved for offense, which is why Arraez is so central to their hopes for a second straight postseason trip. He makes them dynamic in a way they desperately need.

Mets: , LF
Nimmo does what Nimmo does so quietly, and so unassumingly, that you almost don’t notice how much he provides a team that has so much spectacle elsewhere. He’s a reliable on-base guy, he has more power than people realize and his solid defense should play even better in left field than it did in center, after the addition of . There’s a reason the Mets made sure not to let Nimmo get away last offseason.

Nationals: , SS
He is already their best player at the age of 23, one who made big strides as last season went along. Now Abrams is poised to make even bigger strides this year. But he also represents hope, and the future, for a franchise that has faced some rough seasons since its 2019 World Series title and could use something to look forward to.

Phillies: , SS
Now that Phillies fans have seen the real Trea Turner experience -- not what they saw in the first part of last year -- they know just how much he adds. In fact, a somewhat plodding, definitely older Phillies team requires just what Turner brings to the table. Wait until he does it for them for a full season.


Brewers: , RP
The Brewers bullpen has been the primary team strength for a few years now, and Williams, in a variety of different roles, is always at the forefront of that. Without him, even considering all the other great arms on this staff, the whole bullpen structure could break down.

Cardinals: , 3B
Arenado had a down year by his standards last year, but he was still terrific compared to most third basemen. He is at a pivotal juncture of his Cardinals career, a veteran bridge to a generation of young players who look up to him, as a leader and a star. Without him, the Cardinals would feel like they have a big hole at their center.

Cubs: , SS
In the big shortstop free-agent sweepstakes of the previous offseason, Swanson was almost considered an afterthought, the last guy to sign, for the smallest contract. But he turned out to be the linchpin of a vastly improved defense, and the 2021 World Champion established himself as a guy the rest of the team could rely upon ... and lean on.

Pirates: , 3B
The power in his bat hasn’t quite come along as some had hoped, but everything else has, and he is starting to richly reward the Pirates for giving him a contract extension. The Pirates have a lot of young talent coming, and they’ll all be looking at Hayes -- for good reason.

Reds: , 2B
For all the hype surrounding other Reds prospects, McLain had the best 2023 season out of any of them. His defensive versatility in the infield allows the Reds to figure out exactly who’s going to play where without losing anything in the process.


D-backs: , RF
There is a temptation here to go with the perpetually underappreciated . But we all saw what a difference, seemingly overnight, Carroll made on this entire team. At its best, the whole D-backs roster takes on the identity of Carroll ... and will for many years to come.

Dodgers: , 2B
Only on a team with Ohtani could Betts ever be overshadowed, but he’s the heart and soul of everything with this franchise. We’ve learned that he will play wherever you put him, and will do so splendidly. That’s the textbook definition of “ballplayer.”

Giants: , RHP
The Giants have clear aspirations this year, as evidenced by their offseason signings, but the entire rotation would break down without Webb atop it. It’s possible no one else in the rotation approaches 150 innings this year; they’ll need Webb to give them more than 200 again.

Padres: , RF
He might not have put up the eye-popping offensive numbers last year that he did before missing all of 2022, but he was still plenty good. It also shouldn’t go overlooked how good he was defensively upon moving from shortstop to right field. Tatis is still only 25 years old, and his early career misfortunes are going to end up feeling very far in the rearview mirror.

Rockies: , LF
It has been a while since the Rockies had a young position player like this to emerge as a centerpiece. The franchise really needed one, and Jones delivered. Can he take the next step?