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5 Things To Watch For In The Cubs Second Half

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Most people love lists. So, here's a Cubs list.

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It's still a day and a half before Cubs baseball returns for the second half (well, almost "half," since by math 58 percent of the season is complete), so I thought I'd put together a short list of a few things that we can all watch for once the season resumes for the Cubs against the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday night in Phoenix.

Will Arismendy Alcantara's hot start continue, and will he stick around?

There's certainly a case to be made for Alcantara to stay with the Cubs, even though his five games so far are an extremely small sample size. There's also a case to be made that he needs more than half a Triple-A season to be ready for the big leagues. Finally, I am well aware that Alcantara's situation has been discussed in many other places on this site. Nevertheless, whether he stays or goes back to Iowa (with a likely recall in September) is worth noting and discussing. I can see both sides of this discussion, but I will note that Alcantara's play seems to have energized the team so far, even though they won just two of the five games he played.

Will the young pitching rotation replacements be able to pick up the slack?

Kyle Hendricks, Dallas Beeler and/or Tsuyoshi Wada will likely be the replacements for the traded Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, both of whom had excellent years for the Cubs before the deal. The Cubs went 13-21 in the 24 games started by Shark and Hammel; much of Shark's poor W/L record was due to low run support. Will that continue with the kids? Also, Dan Straily, who made 27 reasonably good starts for the Athletics in 2013 and who was included in the deal, could wind up in the Cubs' rotation by the end of the year.

Will the Cubs make more trades?

There are certainly Cubs on the block now -- James Russell and Wesley Wright could be two of them, along with Emilio Bonifacio if he shows he's healthy and productive. Rather than belabor possible deals (and BCB's Rob Huff will continue his look at possible Cubs deals later), I'll simply ask you to vote in the poll.

Will Kris Bryant or Javier Baez or both get callups?

I know what your most probably answer is to this question: "They shouldn't." Theo Epstein, in particular, has already stated he doesn't see Bryant recalled this year, even in September. Nevertheless, it's possible that this could happen. Note that I'm neither advocating this nor saying it shouldn't be done under any circumstances, just asking the question. Given Jorge Soler's unusual contract situation, he might be the "Core Four" prospect given the September recall, even though he'll have had only about 200 minor-league at-bats by September 1.

Will the Cubs avoid losing 95+ games this year?

Vote in the poll. (I'll vote "no," because their current percentage would result in a 68-94 season, and the schedule from late August through September is particularly brutal.)

You might have -- in fact, you probably have -- other things you will be watching for during the 68 remaining games this season. Feel free to add them in the comments.