The Cubs and the rest of Major League Baseball will pause over the next few days for the All-Star break, but once the festivities are over in Minnesota, the second half starts up. Check out what Comcast SportsNet's David Kaplan and Todd Hollandsworth have to say about the Cubs' second half in the Cubs Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Honda Dealers.
Another All-Star break, another Cubs team sitting in last place. It's become a recent trend, but things have been getting better with young stars like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro getting All-Star nods this season.
After already executing the big trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland, the question now becomes, can the Cubs carry some of the positives from the first half over into the second half once the All-Star break is over?
"We talk about an awful lot how this team has improved, and the competitive nature in the first half of the season's been an awful lot of fun," CSN analyst Todd Hollandsworth said. "But certainly it was centered around Jeff Samardzija and Hammel and (Jake) Arrieta coming on and pitching and Rizzo and maybe Castro and Chris Coghlan, guys like that who toward the end of the first half started to really play good baseball. What I want to see here in the second half is when this story gets a little bit harder how this team competes. And I think that's exactly what Rick Renteria's going to target. They have done that. You saw it late, after the trade of Samardzija, they started to battle back late. In the Atlanta series they played pretty well. I know they lose two of three, but they played pretty decent baseball and they battled back in some games where it got off track early. That being said, things are probably going to get a little worse. Your offense might get a little worse. You're going to trade a few guys. When that happens, how are you going to respond? So I think the challenge ahead is going to be maintaining that. Anthony Rizzo has work to do in the second half, so does Starlin Castro. And there's certainly things to accomplish."
[MORE CUBS: Arismendy Alcantara keeps doing the job]
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Cubs — and particularly the second half's first series against the Arizona Diamondbacks — is will electrifying prospect Arismendy Alcantara still be with the big league club? In five games, Alcantara is 9-for-23 with a homer, three doubles, a triple, five RBIs, six runs scored and a stolen base.
"I can only cross my fingers, that's what I'm hoping for. He's earned it, great little run toward the end of the first half," Hollandsworth said. "There's really no reason other than maybe circumstance to send him down. That being said, I don't always know all the circumstances. But I'll say this: What I saw from him on the field, there's no reason to send him down. There's every reason to allow him to get 300 at-bats in the second half. There's no pressure. Break him in, find out what he can do, find out how he's going to do second time through, how he does against the Cardinals and the Pirates and the Reds and see what this kid's all about. But in the small sample size I got at the end of the first half, I was pretty impressed."
Check out more of the Cubs Road Ahead in the video above.