With the second half kicking off Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, here’s a look at two players heading in the right direction after 85 games and two who would rather forget the first three months of the season.
1. Ryan Dempster, SP: The veteran starter was one of the top pitchers in baseball from Opening Day through July 8, when he made his first start in 23 days. The offense let Dempster down so many times that he didn’t win a game until June. Amazingly, he was second in ERA (1.99) to go along with a 1.01 WHIP. Ten teams will watch Dempster start against Arizona on Saturday in what may be his last game in a Cubs uniform as the trade deadline approaches. Dempster averaged over seven strikeouts per start and just a shade over one walk per outing. The clubhouse will not be the same without his humor and professionalism.
2. Starlin Castro, SS: With Anthony Rizzo playing just 12 games, we had to go with the Cub who played in every game in the first half. Castro ‘s numbers would be a lot better if he would get a day off once in awhile. Manager Dale Sveum has done a great job of getting his players ready and focused for every game, but like Mike Quade and Lou Piniella before him, he has missed the essence of this 22-year-old’s total game. Castro leads the team in batting average (.291) and hits (100) and is second in stolen bases (16). The fact that his defense has improved dramatically has been lost on critics who only see the few mistakes he makes in judging balls hit directly to him. Watch and see if Castro doesn’t take off and have a huge second half with Rizzo hitting behind him.
1. Geovany Soto, C: Injuries once again landed Soto on the DL for a month in the first half. That alone won’t keep him off the most disappointing list in the first half. Soto has improved his game as far as blocking balls and calling a game, however his offensive output – .177, six home runs, 12 RBIs -- is not going to get it done. With two promising catchers moving up the organization, a strong second half will be needed to salvage a roster spot in 2013.
2. Ian Stewart, 3B: A wrist injury that required surgery might keep him out the rest of the season won’t get him off the hook for an unproductive first half. Stewart has played solid defense at third base, but he was hitting .201 with 5 home runs and 17 RBIs in 179 at-bats when he was placed on the disabled list on June 13. Throw in a .677 OPS and you have a bust on the trade that sent Tyler Colvin to the Colorado Rockies. Stewart’s injury is real but the results were not when he was healthy.