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Top takeaway for each MLB team at halfway point

The MLB season is half in the bag. But whether we’re talking about the league’s best team, the worst, or anyone in between, every MLB team has at least one takeaway from the first half of the 2018 MLB season.

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have baseball’s top records. What has been the most impressive parts of both teams? The Houston Astros won the franchise’s first World Series in 2017. Based on the pitching we’ve seen thus far, we would not be surprised to see  them win it again in 2018.

Conversely, teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox haven’t had much to be positive about. It may be time to move on from whatever positives they have had. Other bad teams, like the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds, have had some reasons to be upbeat.

This is each team’s primary takeaway from the first half of the season.

Stats and records through Wednesday, June 27.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt is super important

The Diamondbacks have scored 147 runs in June. By contrast, Arizona entered June with 209 runs scored. In other words, the D-Backs have scored only 62 fewer runs in less than one month of action than they did in more than two months. So, what happened? Well, Goldschmidt got hot. He entered June hitting .209/.326/.393 with only seven home runs. In June, he’s hitting .368/.469/.779 with 10 homers. Heading into the second half, Goldschmidt will tell us a lot about Arizona’s chances.

Atlanta Braves: Present is good, future is better

The Braves are in first place and have the second-best record in the NL. But amazingly, that’s not the best thing about Atlanta’s first half. No, that’s been the development of guys like Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna, who are collectively four years younger than Bartolo Colon. Additionally, a slew of young arms (Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard) should all be with the Braves on a full-time basis within a year. Making the playoffs in 2018 would be great. But beginning in 2019, Atlanta will be a potential juggernaut.

Baltimore Orioles: It’s time to be aggressive rebuilders

With a slew of pending free agents, including Manny Machado, it might have made some sense for Baltimore to start the rebuild in the offseason. Still, given that this was a playoff team in 2016, we can’t fault the Orioles for wanting to try to contend for one more year. Now, though, it’s time to start moving players. Embracing a rebuild can be tough. Even if it’s done well, a rebuild likely means you’re punting for a season or two. But when the pre-rebuild team is on track to be one of the worst in MLB history, it’s time to start selling.

Boston Red Sox: 2017 was not a fluke for J.D. Martinez

Martinez had a wonderful year in 2017 for the Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers. But while he was a good player before that, it was so much better than the rest of his career that it was hard to think that Martinez would follow up in 2018. But in his first year in Boston, Martinez is hitting .329/.396/.654 with 25 home runs. That puts him on pace to be even better than he was last year. The Red Sox were a good team in 2017, but didn’t have the power to hang with the AL’s best. With Martinez on board, that’s not the case this year.

Chicago Cubs: Starting pitching depth is a problem

On the surface, the 3.66 ERA and 1.30 WHIP posted by Chicago starters looks good. But when we remove Jon Lester’s numbers, that goes to a 4.10 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. That’s a sizable drop. Chicago can’t bank on the Milwaukee Brewers going away in the NL Central. Reaching the playoffs as a Wild Card is possible, but the senior circuit is fairly deep. It’s not exactly an ideal race to be in. Whether it comes via a trade, or some of the other starters (namely Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks) improving, Chicago needs more from its starters.

Chicago White Sox: It’s time to move Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu continues to do his thing for the White Sox.

The White Sox will do well to avoid 100 losses in 2018. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Chicago fielding a contending team before 2020. Abreu will be a free agent after 2019. So, why not add even more young talent to the rebuilding project? Abreu would certainly fetch a pretty penny on the trade block. Since Abreu’s 2014 debut, he’s been the team’s best hitter. In fact, since Chris Sale was traded after the 2016 season, he’s been Chicago’s best player. It’s never easy to trade a guy like that. But while it may not be easy, it is sensible.

Cincinnati Reds: Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez becoming stars

The Reds are having a miserable year. But despite the losses, Cincinnati fans have had plenty to cheer about. Joey Votto is having a typical great season. But Scooter Gennett (.336/.375/.534, 13 home runs) and Eugenio Suarez (.301/.388/.568, 16 home runs) are also enjoying monster seasons. That leaves the Reds with options. One, just enjoy these guys and try to build a pitching staff around them. Two, use them as trade chips to help build that rotation.

Cleveland Indians: It’s nice to be in the AL Central

Playing in the AL Central, combined with the unbalanced schedule, is working quite well for the Indians in 2018. Excluding the Kansas City Royals (who have the second-worst record in baseball), Cleveland has MLB’s biggest discrepancy in divisional vs. non-divisional winning percentage. In other words, the Indians have been really good against division rivals, and really bad against everyone else. That’s not good. But it has been good enough for a commanding AL Central lead.

Colorado Rockies: Where did home-field advantage go?

Even in down years for the Rockies, Coors Field has never been a place where opponents relish going. It’s a tough place to play. But in 2018, they have the seventh-worst home record in baseball. The only teams worse are ones you don’t want to be keeping company with. Colorado remains in the playoff race, but is hanging on by a thread. In order to make a second straight trip to the postseason, the Rockies will have to find a real advantage at home again.

Detroit Tigers: Nicholas Castellanos becoming a star

Castellanos had a career year in 2017 for the Tigers. If anything, he’s been better in 2018. Castellanos is hitting .308/.357/.505 with 10 home runs. That leaves a rebuilding Detroit team with options. At 26, Castellanos is certainly young enough to still be relevant when the Tigers are ready to compete again. But if Detroit wants to stockpile younger players and prospects, Castellanos can be supremely valuable on the trade block.

Houston Astros: Thwarting a repeat bid will take a monster effort

By and large, American League contenders will be looking to upgrade the starting rotation at the trade deadline. That will not be a problem for the Astros. Justin Verlander (1.82 ERA, 0.81 WHIP), Gerrit Cole (2.56 ERA, 0.90 WHIP), and Charlie Morton (2.54 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) give Houston a top-three that baseball hasn’t seen in a long time. Imagine how good the team will look if Dallas Keuchel turns things around. Good luck to any team that squares off against Houston in October.

Kansas City Royals: Jorge Soler and Whit Merrifield are future building blocks

When a team’s having a season as bad as Kansas City’s, positives come when players do things to show that they can be future cornerstones. Merrifield and Soler have done that. Merrifield is hitting .281/.356/.400 and has 16 steals. Soler is on the shelf now, but prior to his injury was hitting .265/.354/.466 with nine homers. We know that the Royals are going nowhere in 2018. But the way these guys are performing, Kansas City has reason to be upbeat about the future.

Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout needs help or a new team

If Trout never plays another game, he’s a borderline Hall of Famer. It’s not often we can say that about a 26-year-old, but Trout has been just that special. The problem is that the Angels can’t seem to put a good team around him. The Halos aren’t terrible, but also aren’t awfully close to contending. This is despite Trout having arguably his best season to date. If you have baseball’s best player, having a great year, and still can’t come that close to the playoffs, the rest of your team needs a lot of work.

Los Angeles Dodgers: It’s time to think about life after Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw has been effective in 2018. The problem is that he’s had not one, but two different trips to the DL in the first half of the season. Mind you, he also made trips to the DL in three of the previous four seasons. That’s not what you want to see from a pitcher in his age 30 season. Kershaw could opt to return to Los Angeles following the 2018 season. But regardless of whether that happens, the Dodgers have to think about a future without their longtime ace.

Miami Marlins: Slowly but surely, we’re seeing progress

Realistically, nobody is expecting the Marlins to be good any time soon. The 2018 season is all about seeing which players might be around when Miami is ready to compete. Lewis Brinson still has a way to go. But other young players, like Brian Anderson (.297/.374/.416), Jose Urena (4.40 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) and Caleb Smith (4.19 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 10.2 K/9) are giving Marlins’ (those who are hanging around, anyway) something to cheer for.

Milwaukee Brewers: Aggressive offseason pays off

The Brewers were active in the offseason, upgrading the already strong outfield by signing Lorenzo Cain and trading for Christian Yelich. It’s worked out quite well. Cain is hitting .291/.394/.438 with eight home runs and 16 steals. Yelich has been even better, hitting .290/.365/.473 with 11 home runs and 10 steals. It’s worked. With the best record in the National League, Milwaukee is well on track to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Minnesota Twins: Lack of offensive depth sending team back to mediocrity

The Twins made the playoffs in 2017. It seemed like a new era of good baseball was starting in Minnesota. Unfortunately, 2018 has been a setback. The offense has been a massive culprit. Brian Dozier has 11 home runs, but is hitting .221/.301/.395. Max Kepler has struggled to a .216/.304/.394 mark. Miguel Sano had a standout season in 2017, but his 2018 struggles have sent him down to the low stages of the minors. The Twins don’t have good enough pitching to withstand this. Their record reflects that.

New York Mets: Don’t overreact too much to the start

At the end of play on April 13, New York stood at 11-1, MLB’s best record. Since then, only the Orioles have been worse. In fact, the Mets has struggled so mightily that despite the great start and not even being quite halfway through the schedule, the Mets have the fifth-worst record in all of baseball and should be exploring trading what valuable players they have. In a sport where teams play 162 games, we know not to overreact too much to what happens in the opening weeks. Even still, this drop has been massive.

New York Yankees: Even more young talent in the Bronx

With guys like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez coming up in recent years, New York didn’t exactly need more young talent to come through this year. But the Yankees have gotten precisely that. Miguel Andujar is hitting .276 /303/.506 with 11 home runs. Gleyber Torres, meanwhile, is hitting .284/.341/.537 with 14 home runs. New York will certainly return to the playoffs in 2018 and could well win a World Series. But even if that doesn’t happen, this team is set up ridiculously well for the future.

Oakland Athletics: Power back in Oakland

Whether the A’s can make a run at a playoff spot in the second half remains to be seen. But if it doesn’t happen, it won’t be because of the offense. Oakland has 108 home runs, the fifth-best total in baseball. Khris Davis leads the way with 20 home runs. But in total, five A’s have 10 or more. Four other Oakland players have hit seven. This isn’t a team that opposing pitchers are lining up to face.

Philadelphia Phillies: Odubel Herrera and Aaron Nola becoming stars

The Phillies are in the mix to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The seasons being enjoyed by Herrera and Nola are big reasons why. Herrera is hitting .294/.348/.486 with 13 home runs. Nola, meanwhile, has a 2.58 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and has struck out nearly a hitter an inning. Herrera is 26, while Nola is only 25. So, the fans in Philadelphia will have a chance to enjoy these guys for a long time.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Patience pays off with Austin Meadows

Since getting drafted in 2013, Meadows has steadily climbed through the Pittsburgh organization. He spent time in Triple-A in 2016, 2017, and 2018. He was finally called up in May and things have certainly worked well. In little more than a month, Meadows has hit five home runs and has backed that up with a .314/.346/.525 slash line. The playoffs aren’t in the cards for the Pirates in 2018. But the play of Meadows has certainly been encouraging.

San Diego Padres: The power of Christian Villanueva

Nobody in San Diego is going to confuse Villanueva with the late, great Tony Gwynn. He’s hitting .230/.295/.486. But he’s also hit 16 home runs. That’s a nice total for anyone at this time of the year, let alone a rookie. The Padres haven’t had a winning season since 2010. That’s highly unlikely to change in 2018. But San Diego does have a strong Minor League system and with guys like Villanueva, should have a good group to greet those prospects when the time comes.

San Francisco Giants: Road woes must be solved

In San Francisco, the Giants are great. Their 26-13 home record is the fourth-best in baseball and the best in the National League. The road, though, is almost 180 degrees different. Away from AT&T Park, the Giants are 16-26, the worst road record in the NL and the fifth-worst in baseball. The .286 differential in home vs. road winning percentage (.667-.381) is the biggest in baseball. If the Giants are going to make the playoffs, they’ll need to play better away from the shores of McCovey Cove.

Seattle Mariners: Playing well in Robinson Cano’s absence

Cano’s injury/suspension could well be felt in the second half of the season. But thus far, Seattle has held up okay. The Mariners were 22-17 when Cano last played and have gone 28-14 since. It’s really been a team effort, with players like Nelson Cruz, Mitch Haniger, and Jean Segura carrying the offense, and a James Paxton-led pitching staff holding its own. Cano’s return could complicate things. But for now, we have to praise how well Seattle is handling the adversity.

St. Louis Cardinals: Miles Mikolas has been a find

The Cards remain in playoff contention in a highly competitive NL Central. The performance of Mikolas has certainly contributed to that. While not a strikeout pitcher at all (6.6 K/9), Mikolas is 8-2 with a sterling 2.69 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. He should be commended for reviving his career and becoming a better pitcher in Japan. Similarly, St. Louis deserves credit for going outside of the box to upgrade the starting rotation like this.

Tampa Bay Rays: Blake Snell taking over as the ace

While Chris Archer has struggled a bit in 2018, Snell has owned the season. In 17 starts, he’s put up a 2.31 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and struck out better than 10 hitters an inning. Those kind of numbers are great for anyone. For a small market team, that kind of performance from a 25-year-old is even more encouraging. It’s going to be hard for Tampa to compete with New York and Boston for the foreseeable future. But Snell gives the Rays a building block.

Texas Rangers: Development of Nomar Mazara

While the Rangers aren’t going anywhere in 2018, the way Mazara is developing is very encouraging for Texas. Entering the year, he was a .259/.322/.421 hitter who had hit 20 home runs in each of his first two years. That’s pretty good for a young player. He’s made even more progress in 2018. Mazara is hitting .278/.339/.472 and already has 14 home runs. That kind of development from a 23-year-old is something to be quite happy about.

Toronto Blue Jays: It’s time to get younger

Toronto made consecutive ALCS trips in 2015 and 2016. But the Jays regressed to 76-86 in 2017. At 37-43, 2018 has been more of the same. Troy Tulowitzki has been on the shelf all season. Josh Donaldson has missed a good portion of the year. That, combined with the fact that the Red Sox and Yankees will likely have a lock on the AL East for a while, is a sign that Toronto should start a rebuilding project. Now is the time for Toronto to deal some of the veterans, get younger, and enter a firm rebuilding project.

Washington Nationals: Life after Bryce Harper won’t be so bad

With Harper and a number of others entering in free agent years, it seemed like 2018 would be a championship or bust year for the Nats. That narrative, though, has changed. Trea Turner (.261/.346/.397, eight home runs, 21 steals) has been fantastic. Everything we’ve seen from Victor Robles indicates that he has a good future in Washington. Juan Soto, of course, blazed his way through the minors and is hitting .324/.434/.574 with six home runs. That makes for a bright future, even if Harper leaves.

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