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Report Cards for Every MLB Team at the Midseason Mark

Joe GiglioContributor IJune 25, 2014

Report Cards for Every MLB Team at the Midseason Mark

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    With the 2014 Major League Baseball season careening toward the halfway point, it's time to take stock of what has happened thus far and grade each of the 30 teams. Heading into the last week of June, more than 66 percent of the league could legitimately be called contenders, speaking to the parity and even play throughout the sport. 

    The report cards that follow include a rundown of what each team has been doing well, where they have room to grow as well as an overall grade for the first half of the season.

    Half of the season still remains to be played, allowing for significant shifts to the narrative, franchise-changing trades and unexpected contributors to emerge down the stretch of the summer. 

    Here is how all 30 teams grade out at the halfway point of the regular season. 

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Despite the unsightly record (32-47), Arizona deserves credit for righting the ship after an awful start to the season. At the conclusion of April, the Diamondbacks sat at 9-22 and were buried in the NL West. Since that point, the team has played .500 baseball (25-25) and avoided complete embarrassment. Paul Goldschmidt's excellence (157 OPS+) is a big reason for the decent play of late.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    At some point, this franchise needs to change direction. Upon hiring Tony La Russa as a baseball czar earlier in the season, baseball insiders began to wonder if or when significant changes would occur in Arizona. By the end of the season, a new front office team and manager could be in place to shake up a losing culture.


    Grade: F

    Amazingly, the Diamondbacks entered the season with hopes of competing for a postseason berth in the National League. With the worst run differential (minus-66) in baseball, that idea was gone by the first week of May. If La Russa's arrival can put this team back on the right track by September, perhaps the franchise can end the season on a positive note.

Atlanta Braves

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    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Despite a rash of injuries (Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy) in spring training, the Braves have stayed afloat in the National League East. With a 38-37 record through 75 games, the defending division champions sit within two games of the more talented Washington Nationals. Thanks to major offensive contributions from Evan Gattis (147 OPS+) and Freddie Freeman (140 OPS+), Atlanta has overcome a pitching staff that's a shell of its recent self. 


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Outside of Julio Teheran (152 ERA+), Atlanta's starting pitching hasn't been good enough in 2014. Of the arms that have made double-digit starts, only Teheran owns an ERA+ above the league average. If the Braves are going to over take the Nationals in the NL East or win enough to compete for a wild-card spot, Ervin Santana (89 ERA+) and Mike Minor (88 ERA+) must step up.


    Grade: B-

    Prior to the start of spring training, the Braves looked like the second-best team in the NL East and an excellent pick for one of the two NL wild-card berths. But after losing two starters, last season's 96-win team became a flawed contender. Through the first half of the season, nothing has happened to change that narrative. 

Baltimore Orioles

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    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Despite losing catcher Matt Wieters to a season-ending elbow injury, Manny Machado's season being delayed due to injury and Chris Davis landing on the 15-day disabled list due to an oblique strain, the Orioles haven't missed a beat offensively. Heading into play on June 24, Baltimore was leading the AL in hits and ranked second in both batting average and home runs.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve


    Outside of a recent burst by 23-year-old righty Kevin Gausman, Baltimore's rotation must improve to survive the six-month gauntlet of the American League East. Outside of Bud Norris (110 ERA+), no Orioles starter has made at least 10 starts and pitched to an ERA+ of 110 or better. 


    Grade: B+

    Suspect starting pitching and injuries to key offensive players is usually a recipe for disaster in the AL East. Unlike the Red Sox and Rays, the Orioles haven't allowed difficult circumstances to stand in the way of winning games. With a 40-35 record through 75 games, Baltimore has survived the storm and looks poised for a big summer. 

Boston Red Sox

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    Where the Team Has Excelled

    After winning the 2013 World Series with a veteran-laden group, the current edition of the Red Sox has blended the future with the recent past. From Xander Bogaerts to Brock Holt to Jackie Bradley to Brandon Workman to Rubby De La Rosa, the defending champs have incorporated young, rising contributors onto the 40-man roster, potentially setting up a bright future in 2015 and beyond.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Boston simply isn't scoring runs at the rate it did last season. On the way to 97 victories and the AL pennant in 2013, manager John Farrell's offense crossed the plate 853 times. Through 77 games in 2014, the team had scored just 294 runs. At that rate, the Red Sox offense is on pace to plate just 618 runs. 


    Grade: D

    When Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia departed in free agency, the Red Sox were poised to take a step back. In 2013, everything seemed to go right on the path to a title. If things evened out a bit, there still should have been enough talent at Fenway Park to win 85 games and stay in the AL East race all summer. Time will tell if that is still attainable for a group that entered play on June 24 with a 35-42 record.

Chicago Cubs

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    In Chicago, the future hasn't quite arrived. From Jorge Soler to C.J. Edwards to Albert Almora to Javier Baez to Kris Bryant, an abundance of talent could take over Wrigley Field in 2015. In a pleasant surprise, current major leaguers Anthony Rizzo (149 OPS+) and Starlin Castro (85 hits) have played like building blocks, potentially giving the Cubs a duo of veterans to mix future rookies around.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    On the surface, Chicago's pitching is solid. Led by Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, two top-of-the-rotations arms are present. However, neither righty is signed long term and Chicago's system is lacking high-end arms. If, or when, the Cubs trade their top-two starters, the returns must include a future ace. 


    Grade: C-

    Forget the 31-43 record for a minute. This Cubs team was supposed to be poor, but it has actually developed young players, increased excitement around a solid minor league system and showcased two potential trade pieces for July trades. 

Chicago White Sox

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    As the White Sox continue through a rebuilding season, Chris Sale and Jose Abreu have emerged as franchise players. Sale, 25, owns a 144 ERA+ across 285.2 inning pitched since the start of the 2013 season. With a contract that guarantees him only $53.15 million from 2015-2019 (if his 2018 and 2019 options are picked up), the White Sox have one of the best bargains in the sport.

    In Jose Abreu, they have another potential long-term bargain. After signing a six-year, $68 million deal in the offseason, the Cuban slugger owns a .613 slugging percentage in 270 plat appearances in 2014. The last rookie to post a slugging percentage of at least .600: Albert Pujols in 2001.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    The talent base outside of Sale and Abreu is thin, especially when it comes to a bullpen that lacks high-end arms. After surrendering a walk-off home run to Baltimore's Chris Davis on June 23, the White Sox bullpen owned a 1.44 SO/BB ratio, dead last among all relief corps in the sport, per ESPN.


    Grade: C

    Prior to a five-game losing streak, a case could have been made for the AL Central profiling as a five-team race heading into the second half of the season. The White Sox have scuffled, but considering that the franchise is in transition, an improvement from last year's 63-99 record would be a sufficient goal to achieve. 

Cincinnati Reds

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Despite losing Shin-Soo Choo to free agency and dealing with long-term injury issues to stars like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Mat Latos, the Reds entered play on June 24 with a 38-37 record, above water and within one loss of the Dodgers for the second NL wild-card berth. 


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Johnny Cueto (1.86 ERA) needs help in the rotation. Outside of the brilliance of the soon-to-be NL All-Star starter, not one member of Cincinnati's rotation owns a FIP (fielding independent pitching) of better than 3.76, including recent $100-million man Homer Bailey.


    Grade: C

    After qualifying for the postseason in 2013, the Reds were poised to take a step back this year. Through 75 games, the current outfit is alive in the mediocre postseason race, but it is looking more like a .500 team than an October threat.

Cleveland Indians

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    After winning 92 regular-season games last season, the Cleveland Indians have taken a step back in 2014. Thus far, the bright spots have been in the form of ascending talents like Michael Brantley (158 OPS+) and Corey Kluber (9.9 SO/9). If veterans like Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Carlos Santana play well in the second half, Cleveland's core will look strong entering 2015.

    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Outside of Kluber, Terry Francona's rotation has been a mess. Among the seven arms to take turns behind Kluber, not one owns an ERA+ of at least 100. 


    Grade: C-

    When the 2013 season ended, the Indians looked poised to become an AL Central contender for the foreseeable future. With the emergence of Kluber and Brantley, there should have been enough talent on this roster to challenge Detroit in the AL Central. Through 76 games and 39 losses, that doesn't seem to be the case.

Colorado Rockies

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    The best player in the National League plays at Coors Field. Troy Tulowitzki's MVP-caliber campaign has reminded baseball fans just how good the 29-year-old shortstop can be when healthy. With a staggering 4.8 WAR, Tulowitzki carried a flawed Rockies team on the fringe of contention for the first two months of the season.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    The talent base around Tulowtizki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez isn't good enough to compete in the top-heavy NL West. If the Rockies truly want to capitalize on having an elite shortstop in his prime, the team must add to a young core that includes third baseman Nolan Arenado and catcher Wilin Rosario.


    Grade: C-

    Entering June, the Rockies sat at 28-27, over .500 and boasting an impressive array of young hitters, veterans thriving at Coors Field and Tulowitzki's all-around game. Thanks to injuries and poor roster construction, the bottom has fallen out since. As losers of 15 of their last 21 games, Colorado is headed for another losing season.

Detroit Tigers

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Despite a small run differential (plus-7), the Tigers are where baseball fans are accustomed to seeing them: atop the AL Central. Although the road to October may be a fight, Detroit still looks like the division favorite thanks to the brilliant middle-of-the-order combination of Miguel Cabrera (.322, 61 RBI) and Victor Martinez (.326, 49 RBI). By the end of the year, the Tigers' duo could become the first pair of teammates to each post seasons with at least a .320 batting average and 100 RBI since the 2011 season, per Baseball-Reference (subscription required).


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Justin Verlander (4.82 ERA) needs to improve in order to give the Tigers a dominant rotation. With Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly, Detroit has the core of a great staff. If the Verlander of old returns, the Tigers could run away with the division.


    Grade: B-

    Much is expected out of one of the AL's yearly favorites, but a close race in the AL Central could soon be more of a product of the Royals' ascension than Tigers' fall. This isn't a perfect team, but the team should possess enough star power to reach 90 wins and obtain a spot in October once again.

Houston Astros

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    The fruits of Houston's fertile farm system have begun to arrive at Minute Maid Park. From George Springer (13 HR) to Jon Singleton (4 HR), the backbone of a future winner in Houston is now part of the everyday lineup for manager Bo Porter.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Despite the excitement provided by Springer, Singelton and AL All-Star hopeful Jose Altuve, the Astros entered play on June 24 ranked 14th in the AL in runs scored and 11th in OPS+. If the Astros are going to sustain offense, more contributions will be needed.


    Grade: C+

    This franchise deserves credit for moving in the right direction. After three consecutive 100-plus-loss seasons, the 2014 Astros are on pace to win 69 games.


Kansas City Royals

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled  

    The Royals can pitch. With a team ERA of 3.68, Kansas City owns the third-best mark in the American League. Led by James Shields' consistency and the emerging rookie duo of Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy, all five members of the Royals' current staff sport ERAs of 3.75 or better.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Kansas City needs to find a way to hit for more power in the second half of the season. With just 43 team home runs through 76 games, the Royals are on pace to hit only 92 for the entire season. Over the last decade, only five teams have hit less than 100 home runs over a full season, per Baseball-Reference.


    Grade: B+

    For the first time in a long time, the Royals are contenders. After winning 86 games and finishing strong in 2013, a young, ascending group in Kansas City is poised to take the next leap and reprise a role in October that has been dormant since 1985. 

Los Angeles Angels

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    Where the Team Has Excelled 

    Mike Trout's ascension from special young player to all-time great talent is unfolding in plain sight. As the Angels outfielder dominates the sport with a rare combination of speed, power and patience not seen since the early-career days of Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, the team has rebounded from a tough 2013 to post a 41-33 record through 74 games.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    If the Angels are going to head back to October for the first time since 2009, the bullpen must improve. Among the five most-used relievers in manager Mike Scioscia's bullpen, not one owns an FIP of under 3.00. 


    Grade: A-

    Despite losing Josh Hamilton to a long-term injury and watching Albert Pujols morph into an inconsistent power hitter, the Angels have exceeded expectations and stayed within striking distance of the excellent Oakland Athletics.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Baseball's most expensive team has been carried by two areas of its roster: A deep, dynamic starting rotation and the overwhelming talent of Yasiel Puig. Led by Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Dodgers rotation owned a 3.14 ERA heading into play on June 24. With Puig's bat (159 OPS+) supplying the offense, Los Angeles has kept pace with the rival Giants in the NL West.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    It's time for the Dodgers to come together as a team and take off in a way the evokes memories of last summer. While a 42-8 stretch seems like a tall task, this roster has the ability to dominate and run through the National League. 


    Grade: B+

    It's hard to heavily critique a team in postseason position, but the Dodgers have the ability to play even better baseball. With a plus-38 run differential and healthy campaigns from Matt Kemp, Josh Beckett and Dan Haren, there's another gear for this group.

Miami Marlins

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    Joe Skipper/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    When Jose Fernandez headed for Tommy John surgery, it would have been easy for a young Marlins team to fold the tent and look forward to major success in 2015 and beyond. Instead, Mike Redmond's group—with support from the front office—has made 2014 about winning games. For a franchise that has never won a division title, sitting within a few games of first place at the halfway mark is an achievement.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    If the Marlins are going to stay in the NL East hunt, more will be needed from the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Luminaries like Randy Wolf, Brad Hand, Anthony DeSclafani and Jacob Turner can't be allowed to give away games. With top prospect Andrew Heaney now in the big leagues, the Marlins could have enough pitching to survive the summer without Fernandez.


    Grade: A

    Prior to the season, the Marlins looked like Jose Fernandez, Giancarlo Stanton and 23 misfits unable to play competitive baseball in the NL East. Three months later and down an ace, Miami is still alive thanks to Redmond's managing, a solid offseason and a healthy, MVP-caliber Stanton in the order.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    The 2014 Brewers can hit the cover off the baseball. From Ryan Braun to Carlos Gomez to the underrated Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee has slugged since the first pitch of Opening Day. Outside of a sophomore slump from Jean Segura at shortstop and the uninspiring first base combination of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, every position in Milwaukee's order owns a OPS+ above league average.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    When the Brewers signed Matt Garza to a four-year, $50 million deal over the winter, more was expected from him than a 4.01 ERA. If this team is going to run the table in the NL Central, Garza will need to be a big-game pitcher down the stretch of the second half.


    Grade: A

    As doubters continue to wait for Milwaukee to fall, this team keeps winning. Through 78 games, the Brewers were 16 games over .500 and on pace for a 97-win campaign. Due to pitching injuries in St. Louis and roster issues in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, no division foe can match that number over the course of the season.

Minnesota Twins

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Phil Hughes' three-year, $24 million contract looked like a puzzling move from Minnesota's front office last winter. While the former first-round pick and World Series champion always had the stuff and pedigree to pitch at the top of a rotation, Hughes never excelled in New York. Now, in a pitching-friendly park and away from the criticism of New York, Hughes (2.64 FIP, 9.11 SO/BB) is thriving and leading a staff.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Strangely, the missing piece to a contending team in Minnesota may be star-caliber production from first baseman Joe Mauer. After years of dominance at the plate, the former catcher is mired in a career-worst season. If the 2009 MVP can improve upon an 89 OPS+ in the second half, the Twins may emerge as an unassuming contender. 


    Grade: B

    After back-to-back-to-back years of 96-plus-loss seasons, the Twins have improved in 2014. While October still looks like a dream for a team trying to bridge the gap between success of yesterday and the promise of the future, a .500 season isn't out of the question.

New York Mets

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Rebuilding isn't easy to do in New York. Despite incessant complaints from fans, 24-hour sports talk radio and the natural growing pains from young, ascending players, the Mets deserve credit for staying the course. This season likely won't end with a playoff berth and could feature the sixth-consecutive losing season in Queens, but a plan is in place.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Based on run differential (minus-2 entering play on June 24), the Mets have performed more like a 38-38 team than the 35-41 outfit that fans have been treated to during the first half of the the year. Through 28 one-run games, manager Terry Collins' team owned a 10-18 record. In the second half, a young team must find a way to win tight games.


    Grade: C+
     
    Prior to the season, there was talk in New York about this group winning 90 games and competing for a postseason berth. That, of course, was silly. For this franchise, the 2014 season is about developing young players and setting the groundwork for Matt Harvey's return in 2015 in order to push for a run in the pennant race. 

New York Yankees

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Led by three star-level contributors, the Yankees have overcome injuries to 60 percent of the team's rotation and an anemic offense to stay near the top of the AL East. Despite spending more than $500 million to improve the roster in the offseason, the 2014 Yankees are a three-man show, with Masahiro Tanaka (2.11 ERA), Dellin Bentances (0.92 FIP) and Mark Teixeira (132 OPS+) carrying the load.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Simply put, the Yankees need to score more. After an 8-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on June 23, New York was on pace to score 647 runs this season. Last year, the team scored 650, missed out on the postseason and went on a spending spree to land bats like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.


    Grade: B-

    On the surface, the Yankees should be better. With a payroll in excess of $200 million, a negative run differential is embarrassing. Yet, injuries and a flawed roster plan, despite the payroll, have made this team a strange overachiever. 

Oakland Athletics

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    When baseball zigs, the Athletics zag. As Billy Beane's excellence is broken down into simplistic ideas like on-base percentage or the work of author Michael Lewis, each year is different for this franchise. In 2014, the A's are thriving because of a team that trusted its eyes and ignored fear when bringing in players like Scott Kazmir, Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson and Sean Doolittle.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Although range is a far more important measure of defense than errors, the Athletics have committed 55 mistakes as a team this season. That ranks 14th out of 15 AL teams, forcing fans to pay attention to the miscues. It has not been enough to take down the AL's best team so far in the regular season, but fundamental baseball will be vital in October.


    Grade: A

    Oakland is the best team in the sport and on the path to the postseason once again. Despite stadium issues, payroll concerns and a spotty track record in the postseason under Beane, it's hard to find a team more equipped to win the World Series.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Prior to the start of the season, any possible scenario in which the 2014 Phillies contended for a postseason berth would have begun with the premise of older core players staying healthy and productive through the season. Thus far, that's occurred. From Jimmy Rollins to Chase Utley to Ryan Howard to Carlos Ruiz, the backbone of a former NL dynasty has produced enough to win.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Aside from health to core everyday players, the Phillies needed the starting rotation trio of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett to pitch effectively at the same time in order to facilitate sustained winning streaks. Outside of a the early portion of May, the three haven't been healthy and in the rotation at the same time all season.


    Grade: C-

    Thanks to the mediocre NL East, a below-average Phillies team has stayed within shouting distance of contention. Despite injuries, awful play at home and losing streaks, Philadelphia isn't quite buried in the postseason picture just yet. 

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Upon calling up top prospect Gregory Polanco from Triple-A Indianapolis, the Pirates began to boast the most impressive young outfield in all of baseball. From left to right, the combination of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Polanco gives Pirates fans the backbone of a successful team for years to come in the NL Central.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Last year, Pirates starters pitched to a 3.50 ERA. That mark was good enough for fifth in all of baseball, per ESPN. More importantly, it gave an upstart team a shot to win on a daily basis. Thus far in 2014, that magic has disappeared. Through 76 games, Pittsburgh's rotation owned a 4.20 ERA, a staggering 0.70 jump from last summer.


    Grade: C+

    After a magical ride to October last season, logic dictated that the Pirates would take a step back. With a .500 record, the fall hasn't been embarrassing and the team can still make a run for a wild-card berth this summer. Yet, if the Pirates had called up Polanco prior to June, perhaps an extra win or two would be part of the equation. 

San Diego Padres

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    From Seth Smith (164 OPS+) to Houston Street (0.96 ERA) to Ian Kennedy (9.6 SO/9), the Padres have harvested a slew of potential trade candidates. If the team is interested in moving veterans for prospects, a franchise-altering haul could possibly be obtained before the end of July 31. 


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    When general manager Josh Byrnes was fired earlier this week, the Padres became a franchise devoid of direction once again. To be fair, Byrnes' moves and rosters weren't working. The Padres have become a nondescript franchise without a star player or enough creativity to win in a competitive division. The next team leader must be a front-office star.


    Grade: F

    Bad baseball, an uninspiring future and an everyday lineup that sets offense back 40 years is no way to go through the first half of the season. Over the next three months, things can't go worse for a team that hasn't played in October since the 2006 campaign.

San Francisco Giants

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Giants VP and general manager Brian Sabean doesn't get enough credit for consistently finding talent to add to an impressive core in San Francisco. Last winter, Sabean signed Mike Morse (145 OPS+) and Tim Hudson (141 ERA+) as free agents, adding to his legacy of unearthing star-level performance at reasonable prices.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    Entering play on June 24, second base looked to be the only weak spot in a deep, versatile offensive attack in San Francisco. With a .624 OPS, current starter Brandon Hicks has been exposed with increased at-bats against big league pitching. If Sabean is aggressive at the trade deadline, an upgrade at second base could give the Giants the most well-rounded lineup in the NL.


    Grade: A-

    If not for a recent 3-7 stretch, the Giants would have received the rare A+ grade on this in-depth report card. As it stands, an experienced, veteran group is good enough to be recognized as one of the top teams in baseball, as the team is on the path to October and should be considered a threat to win its third World Series championship in five seasons.

Seattle Mariners

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    After years of profiling as a one-man band, the Mariners have become a two-headed monster on the path to contention in the suddenly competitive AL West. With Felix Hernandez on the path toward his usual AL Cy Young contention and Robinson Cano bringing his special hitting ability to Seattle, the Mariners have two All-Stars leading the way toward a winning season.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    If the Mariners are going to make the leap from 71-91 to the postseason, the team must add another impact starting pitcher. While Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are an excellent duo, one more high-end starter can boost the Mariners to true contention.


    Grade: A-

    With a plus-46 run differential, the Mariners have earned 41 victories and are in the midst of the AL West race. Considering where this team was and how much of a risk signing Cano looked to be, Seattle is one of baseball's most pleasant surprises.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Mike Carlson/Associated Press

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Led by Adam Wainwright's typical brilliance (108.1 IP, 2.08 ERA), the Cardinals have overcome injuries and run-scoring issues to remain in postseason contention. With a special pitcher at the top of the rotation, manager Mike Matheny can manage non-Wainwright starts differently, potentially using the bullpen to the max because of the work-horse mentality of the right-handed star.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    One year after hitting a robust .330/.402/.462 with runners in scoring position, the luck has run out in St. Louis. This season, Cardinals batters have posted a .680 OPS with runners in scoring position, severely limiting run-scoring chances for a team devoid of power bats. If the Cardinals are going to catch the Brewers atop the division, the luck of 2013 must resurface soon.


    Grade: B-

    It's a fool's errand to count out the Cardinals, but this team simply doesn't look like the group that ran through the National League last year. Perhaps a big trade or season-saving call-up could jump start things, but a rare season without Cardinals baseball in October could happen.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    In a season filled with injuries, losing streaks and poor luck, the Rays have been able to keep David Price healthy and productive with the trade deadline approaching. If the team does move on from the former No. 1 pick, a franchise-changing haul of prospects could return to reboot the farm system and put the Rays back in the postseason mix next year.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    While this may come as a shock to some, the Rays need to draft and develop young players better over the next few seasons. While past drafts and under-the-radar acquisitions fueled a special run near the top of the AL East, the Rays need more homegrown contributors to sustain success in one of baseball's toughest divisions. 


    Grade: D

    Tampa Bay doesn't deserve a failing grade due to injuries and an immaculate track record of recent success. With or without Price, the idea of the Rays playing better baseball in the second half and finishing within striking distance of .500 isn't crazy.

Texas Rangers

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    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Despite an inordinate amount of injuries, healthy Rangers stars have lived up to the billing and kept the team playing at a reasonable clip. From Adrian Beltre to Alex Rios to Yu Darvish, the veterans in manager Ron Washington's clubhouse haven't used a lost season as an excuse to turn in below-average individual campaigns.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    If the Rangers can cash in a veteran like Rios or closer Joakim Soria at the trade deadline, payroll flexibility and potential prospects could arrive to help the 2015 team resurface as a contender. With healthy players, especially first baseman Price Fielder, the Rangers could be back very soon.


    Grade: B

    All things considered, the Rangers deserve credit for a 35-40 record through 75 games. If any other team lost star after star to long-term injuries, the results would likely be catastrophic. 

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Where the Team Has Excelled

    When the Blue Jays hit the ball, it flies. Toronto has six sluggers—Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, Melky Cabrera and Juan Francisco—on pace for 20-plus home runs this year. If that pace holds, the 2014 Blue Jays would be only the 19th team in baseball history with that kind of power depth throughout a lineup, per Baseball-Reference (subscription required).


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    If the Blue Jays are going to head back to the postseason for the first time since 1993, an impact arm must arrive to help Mark Buehrle atop the rotation. From Jeff Samardzija to David Price, high-end starters are available for the right price.


    Grade: A

    Little was expected out of last year's AL East disappointment. Thus far, the Blue Jays have not shown reason to expect greatness moving forward, but there's also little reason to call their first-half success a fluke or unsustainable.


Washington Nationals

31 of 31

    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Where the Team Has Excelled

    Led by a surprisingly underrated Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals boast the best pitching staff in the National League. With the healthy quartet of Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez now joined by the emerging Tanner Roark, the Nationals could reel off long, sustained winning streaks in the second half of the season.


    Where the Team Needs to Improve

    In order for the Nationals to truly take off, Bryce Harper must return from his current rehab assignment and hit the way so many believe he can at Nationals Park. When whole, the Nationals look like a team with a chance to make a run at a World Series. In order to be whole, they need Harper.


    Grade: B+

    When excellence is expected, a first-place standing at the halfway mark isn't worthy of a special grade on this report card. Yet, of all the teams to grade below the top line, Washington has the highest upside moving forward this season.


    Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs and accurate through the start of play on June 25. All contract figures courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts. Roster projections via MLB Depth Charts.

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