Who is the Braves’ most indispensable player?

Braves record

The Braves have a well-oiled machine of a roster, geared up to capture their seventh-straight division crown.

Atlanta returns a historic lineup with Jared Kelenic replacing Eddie Rosario and Kevin Pillar in left field. They also return three starters in Max Fried, Spencer Strider, and Charlie Morton to go along with a couple of new faces in Chris Sale and Reynaldo Lopez with Bryce Elder, A.J. Smith-Shawver, and Hurtson Waldrep waiting in the wings of Gwinnett.

The bullpen returns Raisel Iglesias, AJ Minter, Pierce Johnson, and Joe Jimenez, who are joined by Aaron Bummer, Ray Kerr, and Ken Giles and will be competing against Tyler Matzek, Dylan Lee, and Jackson Stephans for the final spots in the relief core.

It’s a complete roster, one that won’t make it or break it by a single player. That was the story of the 2021 World Series run when Ronald Acuna Jr., amid an MVP campaign, went down with a season-ending injury, and the Braves went on to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy.

This roster isn’t dependent on any one player, but MLB.com did a piece on every club’s most indispensable player for 2024, with Atlanta’s being a surprise in 2023 NL Rookie of the Year — Michael Harris II.

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 Ronald Acuña Jr. 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.

What makes an indispensable player? Here’s what Will Leitch described it as:

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.

I love Mike as much as the next Braves fan, but I would put Ronald Acuna Jr. at the top of the list. In terms of most valuable, the reigning MVP is responsible for more WAR than any player.

If it wasn’t Acuna, I would say Spencer Strider because he’s capable of carrying the rotation if need be. I’d even consider someone like Matt Olson and Austin Riley ahead of Michael Harris.

It’s a subjective question, which brings different opinions, and I’d understand if you prefer Money Mike. It’s no disrespect to him. This Braves team doesn’t have a ‘most indispensable’ because it’s just a loaded roster.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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