Ranking 4 surprisingly valuable Cubs from the first half

Several unexpected players have had strong first halves for Chicago
Chicago Cubs v New York Yankees
Chicago Cubs v New York Yankees / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages
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Once the Midsummer Classic wraps up, the Cubs will have next to no margin for error if they want to be buyers ahead of the trade deadline next month. They'll enter the second half seven games out of first at 42-47, looking to make up ground on a surging young Reds ballclub.

The leaders in terms of production have hardly come as a surprise. Last winter's big free agent signing, Dansby Swanson, paces the team with a 2.9 fWAR - while Marcus Stroman continues to be the epitome of consistency in the rotation, with 2.4 fWAR.

There are several guys who have really played well in the first half of the season outside of those marquee names, though - and without them, any hopes of contending would have already faded into the dust.

4 surprisingly valuable Cubs at the All-Star Break: #4 - Justin Steele

We all hoped Justin Steele would build off his breakout second half from last year, when he put up a 2.05 ERA from June 5 on, a span of 14 starts. The Cubs shut him down at the end of August with an eye on 2023. What he's done this season has been nothing short of dominant.

En route to the first All-Star selection of his big league career, the Chicago left-hander boasts a 2.7 fWAR - the second-highest mark on the team behind only Swanson, and a league-best 172 ERA+. He's been remarkably solid here in 2023, emerging as a legitimate front-of-the-rotation presence.

It's not that we didn't know he was capable of this sort of performance. We saw that late last summer. But to see him deliver like he has every five days has been a welcome suprise - and one that's kept the Cubs in contention.