Ask three Indians fans what they think about Lonnie Chisenhall and you'll get four answers plus a fit of ironic laughter.
Since his promotion to the major league roster in 2011 — and throughout the subsequent demotions and promotions — it's been difficult to decide exactly how to feel about Chisenhall. There are nights when he seems destined for Cooperstown, draws hopeful preseason projections, and earns breathless praises; there are confusing and frustrating mornings-after where I can't believe he let me down again. I thought he turned around his errant ways, and I swear that this is his last chance to turn it around.
These concerns moved beyond hand-wringing, beer-chugging Cleveland fans and spread throughout the rest of the nation when Chisenhall set foot in right field. Writers around the country are now weighing in on his uncertain future. Grant Brisbee named him one of the most intriguing players to watch in the AL Central this season. CBS Sports can't quite pin him down. Beyond the Box Score openly wonders what kind of value he can contribute over the course of a full season.
Trade him, platoon him, or start him every day, but coming into his age 27 season, the Tribe needs to make a firm decision. It must be made based on what Chisenhall does this season, rather than any untapped potential that may remain, or his fever dream start to 2014.
It should quickly be clear whether or not the Chisenglove can be trusted. His defense in the outfield passes the eye test, and the advanced statistics bring to mind a ball-hungry labrador with a rocket launcher attached to its back. If he can continue to play at this level, then the Indians have a potential Gold Glove winner in right field for the first time ever (It seems impossible, but as far as I can tell the only outfielders to win for the Indians all played in center).
It's possible that the true nature of the Chisenbat is already known quite well. Yes, there will be nights of long, hard Chisendonging, but they may be sandwiched in between two desperate Chisenslumps. A little more consistency from Chisenhall at the plate will make it a lot easier to give him a secure spot in the lineup.
The Chisentangibles are a little less clear. How does Lonnie interact with others in the clubhouse? I've not heard much of anything one way or the other. He seems to be a smart guy, even if his answer for "Favorite sport other than baseball" would have cast him into the Gorge of Eternal Peril. I also can't help but root for a guy who continues to work toward success, even if it means multiple trips back down to Triple-A and an unprecedented position change.
Well. Not quite unprecedented. I won't hash over the parallels between Alex Gordan and Lonnie Chisenhall at this point in their careers; it's been pretty well documented already. A 6-WAR ceiling is the best-case scenario, and I think Indians fans would be happy with two to three on a consistent basis.
As Brisbee pointed out, there's no real way to tell until the season is underway. He might mash in the middle of the order, or he might flirt with the Mendoza line and kick the ball around the outfield. Either way, the Indians will have a definitive answer to the Chisenquestion this season, and need to act upon it.