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What to watch for as Guardians fans in August and September

After the Civale and Bell trades, why should the Cleveland faithful continue to pay attention?

Cleveland Guardians v. Houston Astros Photo by Michael Starghill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It's been a tough past week for Guardians fans who were hoping for a push for the 2023 division title. As games continue to sell-out at Progressive Field, what are some reasons fans should continue to be invested in the current team and season?

See if Andres Gimenez, Will Brennan, Oscar Gonzalez, Brayan Rocchio, Gabriel Arias and Bo Naylor can figure it out at the plate.

These six young hitters are currently crucial to the Guardians figuring out their offensive issues which have them 23rd in MLB in wRC+. Each have shown promise throughout the year, but 2-3 breakouts in the next two months would be the most exciting possible outcome for the rest of the year.

Get the bullpen circle of trust figured out.

I think it may make sense for the Guardians to trade a bullpen arm in the offseason. So, who among the Sam Hentges, Trevor Stephan, Enyel De Los Santos, Nick Sandlin, James Karinchak, Tim Herrin, Eli Morgan and Xzavion Curry bunch deserves to join with Emmanuel Clase in 2024 in locking down games for the Guardians? Which would fetch the most return in a trade without crippling the team’s chances to compete?

For me, Stephan, Hentges, De Los Santos and Curry are my favorite non-Clase arms of the bunch. I’d like to see their strikeout totals tick up and all of them make it through the year healthy. I adore Eli Morgan and Nick sandlin as players, but the gopherball is an issue there - can they get that under control? James Karinchak not only gives up homers but routinely walks the side in Triple-A - can he find it? Tim Herrin has great stuff but zero control was shown in the bigs - can he gain confidence and the ability to consistently pump it in the zone?

Triumphant returns from a healthy Josh Naylor, Tyler Freeman, Triston McKenzie, Shane Bieber and Cal Quantrill.

Naylor hitting the IL is a huge letdown, but it sounds like they caught it fairly early. Obliques can be tricky, but getting him back by the end of August would be a huge win. For Freeman, it's important that he shows the reoccurring shoulder issues are something he can overcome.

The end of the season will be a huge victory if Triston McKenzie is able to return to throwing and looks healthy. It’s a huge “if,” but I’ll be content no matter the final record, at this point, if Sticks looks like he’s going to dodge Tommy John. I can’t say I think that scenario is likely, but I’m sure as heck hoping for it, anyway.

Bieber coming back strong in September is similarly important. I think it’s likely that Cleveland enters 2024 with Bieber in the rotation at this point, and they may even keep him and let him walk after the season ends for a comp pick. The team doesn’t have the pitching depth to have both Bieber and McKenzie get Tommy John and feel good about next year’s rotation. They need at least one to look healthy and able to help.

I may be among the few Cal Quantrill defenders left in the world. I do think, when healthy, he can resume his ability to put up ERA’s almost a run better than his FIP, especially with a good shortstop defender backing him up. I also enjoy him as a person and miss his exceptional postgame interviews. So, I’m rooting for him to get healthy and prove his value as a back of the rotation starter.

Individual accomplishments: Can Jose get 25 homers and 25 steals? Will Steven Kwan, Gimenez, and Jose win Gold Gloves?

I recognize that fans are justified to say, “Who cares? I just want a World Series.” Completely fair and I agree. I’ll still hope for guys to put up some good numbers and get some awards because I like these guys and want them to be recognized for their hard work and talents.

We should also enjoy every moment that José Ramírez plays for our favorite baseball team because I guarantee we will miss him when he's gone. What a delight he is and he actually wants to be here.

Keep Tanner Bibee, Gavin Williams, and Logan Allen healthy and get them to around 150 innings pitched.

The future success of the Guardians is definitely centered on their young pitching. If these three can get a good amount of healthy innings in at the major league level, it makes 2024 that much more exciting.

Follow the careers of Kyle Manzardo, George Valera, Juan Brito, Jhonkensy Noel, Micah Pries, Johnathan Rodriguez, Jose Tena, Bryan Lavastida, Angel Martinez, Dayan Frias, Jake Fox, Petey Halpin, Chase Delauter, Kahlil Watson, Jaison Chourio, and Welbyn Francisca with great interest.

There are a lot of exciting prospects in the Guardians' system who will be crucial to 2024 and beyond. Seeing those players perform well for the next two months would be a great sign. If Manzardo can come back in two weeks, as Antonetti recently indicated, he may be able to set himself up to make the Opening Day roster. Valera needs to show that hand strength is back, Rodriguez needs to show that plate discipline he found at Double-A can travel to Triple-A, Noel needs to make more contact... there is something for each hitter to do to show the strength of the farm system remains strong.

Watch for starts/appearances from Joey Cantillo, Cody Morris, Doug Nikhazy, Will Dion, Franco Aleman, and Cade Smith.

Cleveland pitching in the minors is at the lowest point it has been for a while because of the graduations of Bibee, Allen and Williams. Justin Campbell and Daniel Espino being hurt doesn't help nor does slow development for guys like Tanner Burns and Tommy Mace. Each of the arms listed above, however, have shown consistent flashes of brilliance and can play a big part in making the Cleveland pitching factory continue to churn.

See how Terry Francona evaluates his decision on continuing to manage the team.

I'm unsure of if Tito wants to retire or not. I have no idea how his recent hospitalization affects that. I hope that he does what is right for his own health and his family. If he moves to a more background role, I hope the team has found the right mix of clubhouse captain and analytically-minded game strategist to put in his place between guys both inside and outside the organization.

The possibility of the hilarious happening.

I can't say I'd put much faith into the Guardians advancing very far in the playoffs, but the possibility of them miraculously beating the Twins given their respective schedules the next two month is just potentially funny enough to keep me checking the standings every day.