Cleveland Indians All-Time 26-Man Rosterby John Lepore September 16, 2021 2 comments
The Cleveland Indians will be known as the Guardians next season. This will be the fifth name that the team has been called. They were the Blues in 1901, the Bronchos in 1902, the Naps from 1903-1914, and finally the Indians from 1915 until this year. Cleveland has won two World Series titles (1920 and 1948) and after losing in 1954, the team went 40 years before seeing the postseason again.
Although Cleveland hasn’t won a championship since 1948, they have represented the American League three times since 1995. While the Indians still wait for that third ring, we take a look back on their long history of great players. There are a bunch of Hall-of-Famers on this squad and this is certainly one of the best lineups you will see in this series.
Make sure to check out all of our other All-Time Rosters.
Martinez was probably better known for his time with the Detroit Tigers as he did play more games with them. However, V-Mart’s career began in Cleveland in 2002. He showed he could handle the bat right away and by 2004 he was the starting catcher. For the next four years, Martinez would catch more than 120 games each season. During that time he slashed .302/.376/.484 with 84 home runs, 395 RBIs, and an excellent 12 percent strikeout rate. He was an All-Star three times between 2004-2007 and finished seventh in MVP voting in 2007.
Jim Thome, 1B
Thome began his 22-year career as the Indians’ third baseman in 1991. While he played sparingly his first three seasons, he gave a glimpse of what was to come in 1994. From that point until he departed Cleveland after the 2002 season, Thome had a 1.004 OPS with a .425 wOBA and 155 wRC+. One of the most feared sluggers in the game, the lefty led the league in OPS at 1.122 in 2002 and blasted a career-high 52 homers. He sits first on Cleveland’s all-time list for home runs at 337 and walks at 1,008 while also being third with a .980 OPS. The big guy from Illinois was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018.
Nap Lajoie, 2B
Regarded as one of the best second basemen ever, Lajoie came over to Cleveland in 1902 from Philadelphia after winning the AL Triple Crown for the Athletics in 1901. During his 13 years in Cleveland, he led the league in batting average three times and actually stole more bases (240) than struck out (222). The Rhode Island native put up a ridiculous 7.1 fWAR per 600 PAs in that time. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937.
Jose Ramirez, 3B
The only current Indian on this roster, Ramirez has earned his spot. Since becoming an everyday player in 2016, the third baseman has finished in the top three of MVP voting three times. In fewer than 1,000 games and only turning 29 years old on September 17, Ramirez has put up 33.2 fWAR already. He is also the only player in Cleveland’s long history to have over 150 stolen bases and 150 home runs.
Lou Boudreau, SS
Known as a premier defensive shortstop in his time, Boudreau could also hit a little. In more than 1,500 games with the Indians, the right-handed hitter slashed .295/.380/.415. He had eight top-10 MVP finishes including winning the award in 1948 while setting career highs in average (.355), HRs (18), and RBIs (106). Boudreau also managed Cleveland from 1942-1950. So not only was he the MVP of the league, but he also managed the Indians to their last World Series title. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970.
Tris Speaker, LF
While Speaker manned centerfield for his 11 years in Cleveland, he gets moved to left field for this roster. Nevertheless, his offense gets him a roster spot easily. Coming to the Indians in 1916, Speaker started off by leading the AL in batting average at .386. He is the all-time leader in doubles with 792 and 486 of them came in his time with Cleveland. Speaker also displayed an incredible eye with 857 walks to just 146 strikeouts. One of the best outfielders ever, Speaker was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937.
Kenny Lofton, CF
Lofton gets the nod in centerfield due to his elite defense. He is also Cleveland’s all-time leader in stolen bases with 452. He accomplished that in just 10 years while leading the league five times in SBs. Lofton won four Gold Gloves, was an All-Star six times, and finished fourth in MVP voting in 1994. For more on Lofton and also why he should be in the Hall of Fame, check out the article here.
Everyone knows Shoeless Joe from being implicated in the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal. Many people may not know that he actually played more games with Cleveland than with the Sox. While his career was cut short, he played nearly six seasons with the Naps and batted .375 in that time. He still holds the American League record for triples in a season at 26 (tied with Sam Crawford). One of the best hitters ever, Jackson goes here above a few other guys who played longer.
Manny Ramirez, DH
While he was known a bit more for his time with the Boston Red Sox, Manny was being Manny in Cleveland before that. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1994 and then from 1995-2000 he posted a ridiculous .429 wOBA and 155 wRC+ with an OPS of 1.017. Ramirez finished top six in MVP voting three times and led the league with 165 RBIs in 1999 which was the first time a player drove in 160+ runs since 1938.
Bob Feller, RHP
Feller made his debut as a 17-year-old in 1936. Despite missing nearly four years to World War II, he still played 18 seasons, all with the Indians. Feller was a workhorse and one of the most dominant pitchers of his era. He won the Pitching Triple Crown in 1940 at the age of 21 with a 2.61 ERA, 27 wins, and 261 strikeouts. The flamethrower led the league in strikeouts seven times, wins six times, and innings pitched five times. Rapid Robert holds the Indians’ records for innings pitched, wins, strikeouts, and WAR for pitchers. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.
Sam McDowell, LHP
McDowell was a premier lefty during his 11 seasons with the Indians. During the stretch from 1964-1970, the southpaw had a 2.71 ERA and led the league in strikeouts five times topping 300 twice. When he K’d 325 in 1965, he was only the second AL pitcher to strike out 325+ since 1905. In 1970, McDowell finished third in CYA voting and should have won.
Addie Joss, RHP
One of the best pitchers ever, Joss only pitched nine years with Cleveland before dying at just 31 years old in April of 1911. In that short time, the big righty had a 1.89 ERA and completed 234 of his 260 starts. He led the league twice in ERA and had a sub-2.00 in five of those seasons. He also holds the all-time record for WHIP at 0.968. Because of his untimely death, the Hall of Fame waived the 10-year mandate and the Veteran’s Committee inducted him in 1978.
Stan Coveleski, RHP
Not as well known as some others on here, Coveleski was the ace in the early days of the Indians. While he only pitched nine seasons for Cleveland, he had a 2.80 ERA and averaged 278 innings per year. He was dominant in the 1920 World Series throwing three complete games, going 3-0, and allowing just two runs. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1969.
Corey Kluber, RHP
Kluber was a late bloomer. He didn’t have a 20-start season until he was 27 years old in 2013. Despite that, he had one of the best five-year peaks of any starter on this roster. From 2014-2018, Klubot averaged 218 innings and 246 strikeouts while maintaining a 2.85 ERA. He won two CYAs and finished third twice more. Although he didn’t pitch long for the Indians, he is still third on their list in strikeouts behind Feller and McDowell.
Cody Allen, RHP (Closer)
Allen had a five-year stretch where he saved 147 games and struck out nearly 12 hitters per nine innings. The Indians were never known for their relief pitching but Allen stands above the rest.
Bob Wickman, RHP
Wickman is right behind Allen with 139 career saves for Cleveland. While he wasn’t a strikeout pitcher, he managed to induce enough soft contact to lead the league in saves in 2005 with 45.
Doug Jones, RHP
Jones had a solid three-year run as the Indians closer from 1988-1990 saving 112 games. A sinker master, he allowed just 10 HRs in 248 innings across those three years.
Jose Mesa, RHP
He was the closer in Cleveland’s run in the 1990s leading the league in 1995 with 46 saves. He also posted a dominant 1.13 ERA that season. Although he only lasted a few years, that season stands out as the best for an Indians closer.
Bob Lemon, RHP
Lemon came out of the bullpen 110 times in his career so he will join the relievers as well. He played his whole career with the Indians and shined in the 1948 World Series going 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA. The right-hander maintained a solid 3.15 ERA from 1946-1956 while leading the AL in wins three times and strikeouts once. He even finished in the top 10 of MVP voting six times during that stretch. Lemon was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976.
Mike Garcia, RHP
Although he was mostly a starter, Garcia did come into games in relief 147 times in his career so I will throw him in the bullpen as another long man. His 2.91 ERA across the years of 1949-1954 was good and his versatility showed with 20 shutouts and 18 saves in that time.
Hal Trosky, 1B
Trosky’s career was cut short with the Indians at just 28 years old due to debilitating migraines. Nevertheless, he managed to absolutely kill the ball from 1934-1940. While he was overshadowed by greats like Hank Greenberg, Jimmie Foxx, and Lou Gehrig, Trosky held his own slashing .314/.379/.559 and driving in 852 runs in just seven years.
Joe Sewell, SS/3B
Sewell was the ultimate contact hitter. He struck out a total of 99 times with Cleveland. That was in 6,580 plate appearances. It wasn’t like the 5-foot-6 lefty couldn’t hit either. He slashed .320/.398/.425 with the Indians and is one of only seven players in history to play over 1,000 games in a row (1,103). Sewell was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1977.
Albert Belle, LF
Not generally the most-liked guy in baseball (just ask Fernando Vina), Belle could rake. In his six full seasons with the Indians, he slashed .300/.377/.594 averaging 39 homers and 10 stolen bases. Say what you want about Albert, but he belongs on the bench here simply for his bat and he is still the only player in major league history to have 50 doubles and 50 home runs in a season (1995).
Francisco Lindor, SS
Lindor’s time in Cleveland didn’t last very long, but he managed some good numbers while playing there. The switch-hitting shortstop finished second in the ROY voting in 2015 and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting the following three seasons. Lindor slashed .285/.346/.488 in his time with the Indians and had 138 HRs with 99 SBs along with a couple of Gold Gloves.
Ken Keltner, 3B
Mostly known for two backhanded grabs that stopped Joe DiMaggio‘s hitting streak at 56, Keltner was an excellent player. He played all of his career with Cleveland except for 13 games with the Red Sox in 1950. During that span, he was a seven-time All-Star and finished with a .778 OPS while gaining a reputation as a superb defensive third baseman.
Larry Doby, CF
Although he the first African-American in the AL, let’s not forget how good Doby was as a player. In his first stint with Cleveland from 1948-1955, the lefty slashed .287/.392/.503 with 202 homers. In 1954, Doby led the league in HRs (32) and RBIs (126) while finishing second to Yogi Berra in the MVP voting. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998 by the Veteran’s Committee.
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