Earlier this week, FanGraphs posted about the American League's most irreplaceable players for the remainder of the 2022 season. For author and ZiPS creator Dan Szymborski, this isn't a list of the top players in the league. His premise is to eliminate teams out of contention and remove players on teams with significant division leads. He "ran the updated ZiPS projected standings after Tuesday's games and then re-ran the entire simulation with the assumption that each relevant player missed the rest of the season due to injury."
Multiple AL Central players appear on Szymborski's rankings, including Byron Buxton in the eighth overall spot. For Twins fans, an argument can be made for each of the names below as the team's most irreplaceable player.
5. Joe Ryan, SP
Starting pitching is so important for the Twins that it seems like nearly every starter is irreplaceable at this point. However, starters will be limited in the amount of value they can provide, with less than 60% of the schedule remaining. Joe Ryan dominated early in the season to put himself in the AL Rookie of the Year conversation. A trip to the COVID IL was the only thing able to slow him down. Minnesota has already survived part of the schedule without Ryan, which is another reason why he ranks fifth.
4. Sonny Gray, SP
Sonny Gray has been the ace-level pitcher Twins fans have pined for in recent years, but he has yet to make ten starts due to a pectoral strain. Gray was the clear selection as the TD Pitcher of the Month for May, but the team needs him healthy for the season's second half. He was an All-Star the last time he pitched over 175 innings in a season. Like Ryan, his value for the season's remaining games is limited because he will appear in fewer games than the position players named below.
3. Luis Arraez, UTL
An argument can be made that Luis Arraez has been the team's MVP so far in 2022. He leads baseball in batting average and on-base percentage. Baseball-Reference ranks Arraez as having accumulated the team's highest WAR total, which puts him a full win ahead of Carlos Correa. Last season, Arraez played in a career-high 121 games, and Minnesota needs him to surpass that mark in 2022. The Twins have infield depth, so even if Arraez is injured, his replacement(s) would recover some of his value.
2. Carlos Correa, SS
Carlos Correa's slow start might have been tough for some fans to watch, but his track record pointed to him being able to turn it around. Since May 1, Correa is hitting .321/.382/.509 (.891) with 13 extra-base hits in 27 games. According to Szymborski, "Correa ranks a bit lower than Buxton, even with as good a projection, mainly because Minnesota has reasonable depth in the infield." It's been well documented that Correa can opt out of his contract, so he has every incentive to continue playing well.
1. Byron Buxton, CF
Even with the team managing his playing time, Buxton's living up to his contract extension from this winter. He's on pace to set career highs in nearly every offensive category, and FanGraphs already puts his season value north of $18 million. On FanGraphs' list, Buxton doesn't rank as high as other players because ZiPS already projects him to miss time due to injury. Szymborski wrote, "Assuming that Buxton would have perfect health, he would jump into the [AL's] top five." The Twins are at their best with Buxton in the line-up, making him the team's most irreplaceable player.
How would you rank the team's most irreplaceable players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.