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MLB All-Star Break Report Cards: Who’s in a good position to make a big second half run?

We’ve reached the halfway point of the Major League Baseball season and it’s a good time to refresh and recap what went down in the first half of the long season. We learned a lot about each major league team, and today I am going to be analyzing each contender’s strengths and weaknesses. It will be less of a power rankings piece but rather a report card for each contender’s first half of the season. I’ve split grades up into three main categories with offense, starting pitching, and bullpen. Without further ado, let’s check out the mid season report cards for some of the best MLB Teams.

The “Let’s pack it up and move onto next seasonteams:

The Baltimore Orioles (F)

The Kansas City Royals (F)

The Chicago White Sox (F)

The New York Mets (F)

The Miami Marlins (F)

The San Diego Padres (F)

The Toronto Blue Jays (D)

The Cincinnati Reds (D)

The Texas Rangers (D)

The Detroit Tigers (D)

The Minnesota Twins (D+)

“The On The Edge Group” of Teams:

The Pittsburgh Pirates (C)

The St. Louis Cardinals (C+)

The Tampa Bay Rays (C+)

The Washington Nationals (C+)

The Los Angeles Angels (B-)

The San Francisco Giants (B-)

The Colorado Rockies (B)

The Oakland Athletics (B+)

The Premium Contenders:

Finally, the pure contenders. Don’t be offended if you’re an Athletics, Rockies, Giants, or Nationals fan, I only left those teams out because of the division races they’re in. They very well could become premium contenders within a week of returning from the break. The grades from each section are averaged out and rounded up/down using my own special secret formula.

Boston Red Sox (A)

Offense: A

Starting Pitching: A

Bullpen: B+

Analysis: The Boston Red Sox have been one of the rotating top three teams in the major leagues this season alongside the Yankees and Astros. They have one of the premier offenses in baseball with potential AL MVP’s Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez leading their potent lineup. They closed out the first half going 9-1 in their final ten games and they have a 4.5 game division lead over the also stellar New York Yankees. Chris Sale hasn’t left his Cy Young pitching form and he’s cruised to the top of the conversation at this point in July. Craig Kimbrel has been his old, reliable self out of the bullpen as the closer. The Red Sox’s only weaknesses are at the catcher position, and they could use a few upgrades to bolster their bullpen alongside Kimbrel.

New York Yankees (A-)

Offense: A+

Starting Pitching: B-

Bullpen: A

Analysis: The Bronx Bombers lineup truly lives up to its name. The Yankees are on pace to break the team single season HR record at the break. They get an A+ grade offensively and they have the most fearsome lineup in baseball with talented hitters from top to bottom. I mean look at these names: Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sánchez, Greg Bird, Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Hicks. Those are nine guys who can make pitchers really have nightmares on the mound. Luis Severino has carried the load in terms of starting pitching for New York as he figures to be an AL Cy Young candidate come this fall. And we all know about the stacked Yankee bullpen with Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances both returning to their prime form so far this season. The Yankees will need to upgrade their starting pitching at the trade deadline to compete with the Astros and Red Sox, and they could use some top line starters. Whether they’ll get them or not is something to be seen.

Cleveland Indians (B+)

Offense (A-)

Starting Pitching (A)

Bullpen: (D+)

Analysis: The Cleveland Indians disappointed a lot of people with their sluggish start to the season. They haven’t been what they were in 2016 or 2017, but they still have coasted to a 52-43 record and first place in a laughable AL Central division. Their offense has been mainly provided by their stud top three in shortstop Francisco Lindor, third baseman Jose Ramirez, and outfielder Michael Brantley. It’s an inconsistent offense outside of them however, which seems why the Tribe should look to add some solid bats to their lineup at the trade deadline. They have a tremendous pitching rotation, led by last year’s AL Cy Young in Corey Kluber. Trevor Bauer is making a case for the award himself this season. But their biggest weakness is their bullpen, which has one of the worst overall ERA’s in the major leagues. They will have to acquire bullpen help over everything else heading into the trade deadline.

Houston Astros (A)

Offense: A-

Starting Pitching: A+

Bullpen: B+

Analysis: The defending champions look the part of possible repeat champions thus far in 2018. The Astros have an even better rotation with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton all having career seasons in Houston. They still have one of the most prolific offenses in the major leagues led by Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and company. They have a solid bullpen but if you had to upgrade one area of Houston’s team, I’d guarantee you most people would choose the bullpen. Ken Giles, their former closer, was just sent down to AAA after constant battles and struggles with the coaching staff. They haven’t gotten the production needed from their bullpen to help them runaway in the AL West, with Seattle and Oakland lurking not too far back.

Seattle Mariners (B)

Offense: B

Starting Pitching: B-

Bullpen: B

Analysis: I’m not as high on the Mariners as a lot of other people but I still think they’re a premium playoff contender at this point of the season. They have a solid ace in James Paxton, solid hitters like Mitch Haniger, Ryon Healy, Jean Segura, and note. Edwin Diaz has been a stud out of the bullpen as the Mariners closing pitcher. But the missing ingredient? I think it’s experience and depth. I just don’t feel a playoff vibe when I look at this Mariners team. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong but right now I think they’re a wildcard team at best, and they should make a ton of moves near the trade deadline.

Atlanta Braves (B+)

Offense: A-

Starting Pitching: B

Bullpen: B

Analysis: I’m proud to say that I believed in this Braves team before the 2018 season started. They are young but man are they talented. Freddie Freeman is an NL MVP favorite and Ozzie Albies has helped him lead the charge on offense. A resurgent Nick Markakis and solid help from the other pieces on offense and you’ve got the NL’s best offensive team. They have a solid rotation comprised of Sean Newcomb, Julio Teheran, Anibal Sánchez, and Mike Foltynewicz. But the Braves lack experience and pitching (both starters and relievers). They should focus on acquiring one more impact starter as well as bolstering the bullpen into a force that will be one to be reckoned with in October. And don’t forget, this is my World Series Pick to represent the NL come October.

Philadelphia Phillies (B)

Offense: B-

Starting Pitching: B+

Bullpen: B

Analysis: The Philadelphia Phillies have been one of the biggest surprises thus far in the MLB season. Similar to the Braves, they were an underestimated young team that was expected to sit down behind the Nationals in the NL East. Contrary to expectations, Philly has set themselves apart as a true postseason contender with Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola fueling the franchise’s revival. They sit atop the NL East at the all-star break but if they want it to stay that way, they cannot be quiet at the trade deadline. They could use another starting pitcher, they need to bolster their sometimes lackluster offense, and they need to bolster their bullpen. If they can do those things, there’s no reason Philadelphia shouldn’t be celebrating another postseason appearance for their sports teams.

Chicago Cubs (B+)

Offense: A-

Starting Pitching: B+

Bullpen: B+

Analysis: The Cubs have quietly cruised to a solid position at the all-star break once again and they look primed to break into the postseason again. They have a solid pitching rotation that could use another impact starter to pair with Darvish, Lester, Quintana, and company. They have a wealth of experience on their offense led by Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo. They are one of the most well-rounded clubs in the major leagues and I believe that there is absolutely zero reason that this Cubs squad shouldn’t be competing in the NLCS or the World Series this fall.

Milwaukee Brewers (B+)

Offense: B+

Starting Pitching: B+

Bullpen: B+

Analysis: Much like their division rival Cubs, the Brewers have a solid mix of young talent and experience that should allow them to compete in the postseason. Lorenzo Cain, Jesus Aguilar, and Christian Yelich lead a solid well-rounded offense. Josh Hader is a fantastic young reliever that has helped their bullpen lock up thus far in 2018. Jhoulys Chacin is having a career season as the predominant ace of the Brewers staff. They could use upgrades all across the diamond but my vote would be for the Brew Crew to add one or two impact starters while searching for some bullpen help at the upcoming trade deadline.

Los Angeles Dodgers (B+)

Offense: B+

Starting Pitching: A-

Bullpen: B

Analysis: Last year’s World Series runner-up, the LA Dodgers just don’t seem to go away. After a sluggish start to the 2018 campaign, the Dodgers have rallied to the top of the NL West by the All-Star break. They’ve been bitten by the injury bug many times this season and it’s incredible to see them where they are at with that in consideration. They are closing in on acquiring Orioles shortstop Manny Machado which in its own right would be a massive boost offensively. They could use some bullpen help as well but they’re an experienced team with young talent mixed in at various places. Can they get back to the Fall Classic? I’d bet on them being a favorite to do so.

Arizona Diamondbacks (B+)

Offense: B

Starting Pitching: B+

Bullpen: B+

Analysis: It’s been a tale of up and downs for the Diamondbacks in 2018. They dominated the NL West early on before falling off heading into the summer. Then their offense came alive and carried them back to the top of the division, but they closed out the first half in disappointment by losing the division lead to their rival Los Angeles Dodgers. All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt leads this offense which could use some upgrades at the trade deadline. They’ve gotten some great starting pitching out of their rotation this year and they could use another arm or two to help out their bullpen, but all in all, I think the Diamondbacks have a chance to battle for the NL West or a spot in the NL Wildcard Game.

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