The most crucial players for contenders down the stretch

Whether they take home full-season trophies or not, Christian Yelich and Matt Chapman are among MLB's most important players down the stretch. Darren Yamashita/USA Today Sports

Who are the most crucial players down the stretch for contenders? I'm not necessarily asking which players are the best, but which players will have the greatest impact on which teams wind up playing baseball in October and which ones go on vacation to catch up on some early autumn golf.

To get an idea, using the ZiPS projections for the rest of the season, I projected the 2019 stretch run a million times and in each of these simulations, replaced the best players in baseball with what replacements their teams have available. And with baseball's trade deadline now more strictly a July 31-or-bust proposition without the August waiver period, most team's Plan B options are going to have to come in-house.

So for these players on these contenders, it's now or never.