The one player each team just can't live without
We all gasped when we saw Edwin Díaz go down, or Jose Altuve, or Gavin Lux and we all said the same thing: How is that team going to survive without him?
But the thing is: Those teams can survive their absences. They’ll miss those players, of course, but they can get by. Need proof? It was just two seasons ago that the Braves lost superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. to a season-ending knee injury in July … and went on to win the World Series.
But as the season approaches, we can’t help but wonder: Who is the most indispensable player on every team? Let’s take a look at one man’s opinion (in this case, this man).
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B
Even if he wasn’t quite the player in ‘22 compared to the previous year, he’s the pivot point the Blue Jays lineup revolves around. The whole roster would deflate without him at the center.
Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C
The Orioles were 16 games over .500 when Rutschman caught last year, and 12 under when he didn’t. I’d call that “indispensable.”
Rays: Randy Arozarena, OF
The Rays are sort of built not to have any indispensable players, but Arozarena is one of the few reliable power bats in this lineup -- particularly in the outfield. And as we saw again in the World Baseball Classic, he has a certain feel for big moments.
Red Sox: Rafael Devers, 3B
It would be pretty devastating to re-sign Devers to a long-term contract extension like they just did, only then to lose him to injury.
Yankees: Aaron Judge, OF
Imagine what this lineup would have looked like without him in ‘22. Would the Yankees have even made the playoffs without Judge?
Guardians: José Ramírez, 3B
A lineup in desperate need of power couldn’t afford to lose Ramírez, who sure looks like the guy who will be the last person to wear a No. 11 Guardians jersey for a long, long time.
Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS
Kansas City would like him to elevate to the next tier of stardom, but there’s no question the next decade of Royals baseball is going to revolve around the 22-year-old infielder.
Tigers: Riley Greene, OF
What the Tigers need more than anything right now is hope. No one represents hope for Detroit at this moment more than Greene.
Twins: Byron Buxton, CF
Carlos Correa is considered the superstar, and for good reason, but every Twins fan can tell you: This team rises and falls depending on Buxton’s presence in the lineup.
White Sox: Tim Anderson, SS
You kept waiting for the White Sox to make a run last year, but once Anderson got hurt, it was pretty clear it wasn’t going to happen. There are few players more worthy of a big October moment than Anderson.
Angels: Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH
This is a really hard one to pick! In a pinch, we’ll go with the guy who is one of the best hitters in baseball and one of the best pitchers in baseball. And he also struck out teammate Mike Trout (the other option) to end the World Baseball Classic. Feels like a fair tiebreaker.
Astros: Kyle Tucker, OF
The No. 2 hitter who does a little bit of everything, maybe we’d all finally start appreciating him if he were suddenly and surprisingly gone.
Athletics: Shea Langeliers, C
The A’s are trying to show off players who will be a part of their plan for the next half-decade: Langeliers leads that group.
Mariners: Julio Rodríguez , OF
Everything about the Mariners is exciting right now, but nobody is more exciting than Julio.
Rangers: Marcus Semien, 2B
It has been a little lost -- probably because of his slow start -- how good Semien was in ‘22. He was one of just four players (along with Kyle Tucker, Julio Rodríguez and teammate Adolis García) to have at least 25 homers and 25 steals. Must be an AL West thing.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Michael Harris II, CF
It’s tempting to put Ronald Acuña Jr. here, but as we noted in the intro, we’ve already seen the Braves win a World Series after losing him. I’ll go with Harris, whose defense in center field (not to mention his surprising pop at the plate) allows the rest of the Braves outfield to filter in around him.
Marlins: Sandy Alcantara, RHP
Some pundits have pegged them as a frisky sleeper to watch, but it will require another 200 innings at a Cy Young level from Alcantara.
Mets: Francisco Lindor, SS
No Mets fan will ever admit to booing Lindor when he struggled in his first days with the team, but it’s worth reminding them it happened every once in a while. Lindor is what makes this team go and will be for years to come.
Nationals: Keibert Ruiz, C
The long-term extension he just signed shows just how much they’re building around him for the next near-decade.
Phillies: J.T. Realmuto, C
With all the stars on this team, Realmuto is the constant -- sustained excellence at a position that no one else in baseball can match. And as we saw last year, they can survive for a long stretch without Bryce Harper.
Brewers: Corbin Burnes, RHP
The Brewers are built around strong starting pitching and that begins with their ace. Much of what Milwaukee wants to accomplish doesn’t work without the guy who won the Cy Young Award in 2021.
Cardinals: Nolan Arenado, 3B
Arenado is such a perfect fit in St. Louis to the point that it feels like he has played there forever. Is this the year he finally breaks through and wins an MVP Award?
Cubs: Seiya Suzuki, OF
Dansby Swanson is the big-ticket item, but if the Cubs are going to surprise people, they need Suzuki to be healthy and smashing.
Pirates: Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B
Oneil Cruz has the otherworldly talent you can only dream of, but the Pirates are in dire need of Hayes’ consistency at third.
Reds: Hunter Greene, RHP
One out of every five days (and maybe two out of every five if Nick Lodolo takes a step forward), the Reds are going to be a chore to deal with.
D-backs: Corbin Carroll, OF
The journey is just getting started with Carroll: The D-backs will ride him as far as he can carry them.
Dodgers: Mookie Betts, OF
For all the turnover with the Dodgers this offseason, Betts is the heart and soul of the team … And don’t forget, a two-time World Series winner already.
Giants: Logan Webb, RHP
The most Giants-like pitcher of all the San Francisco arms, he’s a steadfast provider of bulk innings who keeps getting a little better every year.
Padres: Manny Machado, 3B
Obviously, there are a lot of choices here. But Machado, after being thought of as polarizing early in his career, has become the stable superstar that every team spends decades trying to find.
Rockies: Kris Bryant, LF
We’ll see how healthy he is for each year of his contract, as well as how the Rockies do when he’s not. Though he missed most of last year with injuries, he was quite good when he played -- Colorado needs at least 140 games of that production.