CBS SPORTS — The Nationals lost left fielder Bryce Harper to a bruised lat Wednesday night, an injury he originally suffered slamming in the wall on Tuesday. The 20-year-old currently leads the NL in OPS and is hitting .337/.427/.705 with nine homers this season, so he’s firmly in the super-early NL MVP conversation.
Harper’s teammates are hitting just .217/.272/.357 collectively, making him one of the most indispensable players in baseball right now. Of course, other contending teams would be lost without their best player, so the Nationals and Harper are not unique in this regard. Few teams can truly absorb the loss of their top player and continue to win.
I’m a simple man when it comes to MVP voting — I prefer the best overall player regardless of where his team finishes in the standings — but I’m going to define “indispensable player” a little differently. This list is about players on contending teams who are imperative to their club’s success, so yes, the standings provide some context. Here are my five most indispensable players in no particular order:
- Robinson Cano, Yankees: He’s the best second baseman in baseball and one of the 10 best players in the game overall. Given all of the injury problems in the Bronx, Cano’s middle of the lineup production and all-around game is of paramount importance to the Yankees.
- Yu Darvish, Rangers: Colby Lewis (elbow) and Neftali Feliz (elbow) are out until midseason, and Matt Harrison (back) just had a setback on Wednesday. Texas has gotten strong work from fill-in starters Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm so far, but Darvish is the glue that holds the team’s rotation together.
- Evan Longoria, Rays: We saw what Longoria’s presence means to the Rays last season, when the team went 42-44 while he was on the shelf with a hamstring problem. When he was in the lineup, they went 48-28. Ben Zobrist is a really good and underrated player, but Longoria is a game-changer.
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