Second Half Preview: What to watch for

The Cubs season has not been anything to brag about thus far, but there are plenty of bright spots. As the unofficial second half starts on Friday, there are a number of things to look forward to.

The second half of the Chicago Cubs' season likely won't include a pennant race for the 33-52 ballclub, but there are still many things to look forward to. The 2012 season is about rebuilding and this season can be a success in working toward front office's long-term goals.

With the All-Star break concluding, here are five things to look forward to for the remainder of the Cubs' regular season.

1.) Call on line one: The call-up of the Cubs' top prospect, Anthony Rizzo, was the unofficial start to the organization's rebuilding process. The 22-year-old is hoped to be a mainstay for the days when the Cubs are expected to be competitive.

Before the regular season ends in the first week of October, some of the Cubs' other young prospects should make an appearance. Third baseman prospect Josh Vitters appeared in the Pacific Coast League All-Star game with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. With Ian Stewart sidelined for the season, it's likely that Vitters will make an appearance with the big league club.

23-year-old center fielder Brett Jackson has improved throughout the season, upping his batting average to .261. In addition, Jackson has 20 stolen bases. However, his 122-strikeout total is alarming. Still, Jackson should be included in the Cubs' September call-ups.

Left-handed pitcher Chris Rusin impressed at the Double-A level, but has not had the same success with Iowa. Still, Rusin could get his opportunity with the Cubs this season.

2.) Trade Time: The clock is ticking and July 31 is approaching; Theo Epstein must move Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza before the trade deadline. Both starters are among the top names on the trade market, and each can bring in young prospects to help load up the farm system.

There are many pieces of the current Cubs team that can be moved. It may be more of a dream to trade Alfonso Soriano's exorbitant contract, but if Chicago picks up part of the tab, he could provide value to an American League team. Also, Bryan LaHair, David DeJesus, Reed Johnson and Darwin Barney could be potential trade pieces to contenders.

3.) Rizzo Watch: All eyes are on Anthony Rizzo and that is expected to continue as the season progresses. Rizzo is 17-for-48 to start his Cubs career, and has four home runs in 12 games. The Cubs have played good baseball since his arrival, winning 8 of 12 games.

Given that Rizzo, for now, is hoped to be a franchise cornerstone moving forward, he is one of the lone reasons to be excited for the Cubs' on-field product in 2012. His future appears bright, but it's just beginning now.

4.) Johnny on the spot: One of the bright spots of the Cubs' rough regular season has been seeing how new in-game philosophies have been implemented into action. Among the most notable movements include the Cubs' defensive positioning, a primary objective of Theo Epstein and Dale Sveum.

While the Cubs have seen poor pitching through much of the season, the team's defensive positioning has been important in getting outs and often bailing out pitchers. This is just a minor yet important change that the Cubs have stressed under the new regime.

5.) Eyes on the farm: Those future Cubs who won't be joining the big league club in 2012 can be seen down on the farm in Iowa, Tennessee, Daytona, Peoria and Boise. Cub fans have been packing the grandstands to watch each minor-league affiliate and get a glimpse of the organization's rising stars.

Names like Javier Baez, Gerardo Concepcion, Jorge Soler, and Trey McNutt, among others, are reasons to be excited for the Cubs' future.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
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