Twenty years from now, which current member of the 40-man roster will Indians fans remember most fondly? Who would get the loudest applause at Gryzzl Stadium? (or whatever name the ballpark is going by come 2035)
Only time will tell, but that's no fun, so let's speculate.
It seems to me the three leading candidates are Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, and Corey Kluber, if only because those are the three guys I'm pretty sure are in the lead at the moment, based on what they've already accomplished*, and none of the other 37 guys on the roster seem so likely to go on to greatness that I'd pick them to pass that trio. You'll note that by limiting this to the current 40-man roster, I'm keeping Francisco Lindor out of the discussion. I'm not even sure he'd win the vote if he were included, but I suspect a lot of the discussion would center around him, and I'd rather save that for another day. (You can find the current 40-man here, in case you're wondering who's on it.)
*No one on the roster has provided more value to the Indians in his career to date than Carlos Santana, but it's tough to be a huge fan favorite years after you retire if you can't even be a fan favorite while you're playing for the team. I love Carlos, you might love Carlos, but Tribe fans as a group do not love Carlos.
Brantley is probably the most popular player on the team right now, seeing as how he's coming off a fantastic season, one which involved him doing just about everything well. He's still only 27 years old and he's under team control through 2018, so he's got plenty of time to add to his numbers. One projection system forecasts him to reach 2,000+ career hits, which would buy him an awful lot of goodwill if he happened to do that while playing his entire MLB career with the Indians.
Gomes is a little behind Brantley in terms of current popularity. He's also only 27 and he's under team control all the way through 2021, so if he continues to be a good player, it'll be with the Tribe. (unless they trade him, of course) I feel like catcher is something of a glamour position as well, because they spend a lot of time on camera and wear tough-looking equipment, among other reasons. A good catcher is a magnet for positive attention, especially when they're good both offensively and defensively.
Kluber has a Cy Young Award with the Indians. That's a huge feather in his cap, one that pretty much ensures he's fondly remembered. (If he later signs a big deal with Yankees, he might undo a lot of the potential goodwill with some portions of the fan base, but short of that...) He's 28 years old right now, under team control through 2018. I feel like most fans prefer position players, putting Kluber at a disadvantage, but maybe with so many other popular players in franchise history being hitters, Kluber has a better chance of standing out.
Jason Kipnis probably would have been the top answer twelve months ago, which goes to show what a difference a year can make. Maybe he rebounds, or maybe all three of the guys mentioned above fall off (please no) and someone else steps into this spot.
The other possibility is that the Indians manage to win a World Series, and someone I haven't mentioned is the big hero of that postseason, or that series, or even just Game 7. If no one on the roster goes on to be thought of as one of the 20-25 best players in franchise history, there'd be room for someone to sneak to the top in terms of fan appreciation, just by coming up big in the right moment.
Is there a player or a factor you think I'm overlooking?
Vote in the poll and take to the comments to let us know what you think.