Midseason grades for every National League team

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Friday July 14th, 2017

School may be out for summer, but that doesn't mean we can't hand out grades. As the second half of the season dawns, we're evaluating each team's first half, less on an absolute basis—if you want that, you can always consult the standings—than relative to expectations, with some consideration as to the arc of each team's season to date. In that respect, they're not unlike our Winter Report Card series, except warmed (at least ideally) by the heat of playoff races instead of the hot stove. 

 

Atlanta Braves: B

(42–45, 9.5 games back in division, 8 games back in Wild Card): The Braves are not contenders, but Atlanta fans have to be jazzed by the first half. The Braves sit just a half game behind the Cubs, and are second in the NL East. They've gotten good years from Ender Inciarte, Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis and Brandon Phillips, and stayed afloat when Freddie Freeman got hurt. Even with a disappointing start from Dansby Swanson, the Braves are showing they're on their way to contending in the next few years. Their pitching needs work—but nine of their top 15 prospects are hurlers. —Jeremy Fuchs

Miami Marlins: C

(41–46, 10.5 games back in NL East, 9 games back in Wild Card): The Marlins' core—Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Bour, Dee Gordon, J.T. Realmuto, Christian Yelich—is good. The pitching is not. Even though they've gotten a solid year from Dan Straily (3.31 ERA) the Marlins have the second-worst starters' ERA in the NL. It's putting a good offense to waste. Below .500 is about where most people thought they would be. —Jeremy Fuchs

New York Mets: D

(39–47, 12 games back in NL East, 10.5 games back in Wild Card): It's hard to call the Mets a disappointment, what with their myriad injuries to Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard. Only one regular starter, Jacob deGrom, has an ERA under four. Only two offensive players, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce, have been somewhat consistent. It's hard to say where the Mets would be if all their stars stayed healthy. But they are a long ways off from playoff contention. —Jeremy Fuchs

Philadelphia Phillies: F

(29–58, 22.5 games back in NL East, 21 games back in Wild Card): It was meant to be a rebuilding year in Philadelphia and that's what it's been. The Phils have the worst record in the bigs by five games and are the only team to not reach 30 wins. There have been a few nice performances here and there (Freddy Galvis, Tommy Joseph, Aaron Altherr, Pat Neshek) but it's been pretty negative in Philadelphia—and they're farther away from contention now than they were at the beginning of the year. —Jeremy Fuchs

Washington Nationals: A

(52–36, first in NL East): In SI's baseball preview in April, a scout said the following about Ryan Zimmerman: "He's just not the same." And that's true—just not for the reason the scout thought. Zimmerman's re-emergence as a bona fide star (.330/.373/.596 with 19 home runs) has added another big bat to a lineup that has the top three leaders in batting average in the NL (Murphy, .342; Zimmerman, .330; Harper, .325). Add in two starters in the top three in ERA (Scherzer, 2.10; Gonzalez, 2.86) and you have a legitimate contender. SI picked the Nats to finish third in the NL, behind the Dodgers and Cubs. The Dodgers might be in a class of their own, but it's safe to say the Nats have overachieved. —Jeremy Fuchs

Chicago Cubs: F

(43–45, 5.5 games back in the NL Central, 7.5 games back in the Wild Card)World Series hangover or not, no team is underachieving quite like the Cubs. Not one member of the defending World Series Champions is exceeding expectations this year. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are betting on base and hitting for power, but they’re the only position players living up to their end of the bargain. Kyle Schwarber is hitting .178/.300/.394. Ben Zobrist is hitting .214/.307/.367. Addison Russell and Javier Baez, while great in the field, have not progressed at the plate. Meanwhile, every member of the rotation has regressed this season, putting strain on a bullpen that has been the strongest facet of the team thus far. Willson Contreras is quietly turning it on, and Ian Happ has provided a much-needed boost in the lineup, but this team needs its key members from last season’s glorious World Series run to start playing the way they did a year ago. —Michael Beller

Cincinnati Reds: B-

(39–49, 9.5 games back in NL Central, 11.5 games back in Wild Card): How does the last place team in the division have the second-best grade? The first half has gone as well as the Reds could have expected. Joey Votto is putting up MVP numbers. Zack Cozart justifiably started the All-Star Game after hitting .316/.394/.547. Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler are mashing, and Scooter Gennett somehow has a .403 wOBA, ninth-highest in the league. Raisel Iglesias has quickly turned into one of the most lethal closers in all of baseball, striking out 32.1% of the batters he has faced. The rotation has been a disaster, but it was supposed to be. And hey, Scott Feldman has pitched well enough to be a low-level trade piece over the next two weeks. The Reds have been as fun and encouraging as a 39–49 team can be, which is why they earned their B-. —Michael Beller

Milwaukee Brewers: A

(50–41, first in NL Central): Forget about being the surprise leaders of the NL Central. At 50–41, the Brewers have the seventh best record in baseball, one game behind the Red Sox, and are 5.5 games clear of the Cubs and Cardinals. After losing 89 games a year ago, the Brewers were, at best, expected to take a step forward in what already looked like a promising rebuild Now, behind an offense led by Eric Thames, Travis Shaw, Ryan Braun and Domingo Santana, and a surprisingly competent rotation with budding star Jimmy Nelson at the helm, the Brewers aren’t going anywhere. They’re legitimate contenders in the Central. — Michael Beller

Pittsburgh Pirates: C-

(42–47, 7 games back in NL Central, 9 games back in Wild Card): The Pirates brief window of contention appears to have slammed shut. They were a team headed in the wrong direction this year, which is why they get a passing grade despite a 42–47 record. We’re also giving them some credit for remaining near .500 after the suspension of Starling Marte, even though he brought his 80-game ban upon himself. Had he been on the field at his typical production level, the Pirates could be a .500 team. Andrew McCutchen’s resurgence is joyous to watch, and Jameson Taillon’s development despite testicular cancer is one of the best stories in baseball, but everything else in Pittsburgh is miserable. Gregory Polanco isn’t making the leap. Gerrit Cole is suffering through the worst season of his career. Tyler Glasnow is back in the minors. The only thing keeping the Pirates above a D was their modest expectations. —Michael Beller

St. Louis Cardinals: C

(43–45, 5.5 games back in NL Central, 7.5 games back in Wild Card): The Cardinals looked like they could have gone either way entering the season, so it’s hard to fault them too much for their 43–45 record. Still, they were widely viewed as a playoff contender, but have appeared so only fleetingly. What’s most frustrating, however, is that key players for the future, such as Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz, have struggled so mightily this season. Dexter Fowler hasn’t proven to be the major coup they hoped, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina are nearing the end, and even the rocksteady Matt Carpenter has disappointed. There are some genuine points of excitement, such as Carlos Martinez’s continued ascendance, great play from Jedd Gyorko and Tommy Pham, and the encouraging return of Michael Wacha, but this is a mediocre team playing mediocre ball. —Michael Beller

Arizona Diamondbacks: A

(53–36, 7.5 games back in NL West, first place in Wild Card): Mounting a ninth-inning rally against new Giants closer Mark Melancon on Opening Day was only a sign of the wins to come for one of baseball’s biggest surprise teams. Paul Goldschmidt, as he’s proven throughout his career, has been his usually spectacular self on offense. He leads the team in every major offensive category and could easily emerge as an NL MVP candidate by the season’s end. Arizona’s pitching has generally performed better than expected. Not sure many predicted this team to post the second best ERA in the National League by the All-Star break, but they’ve been carried by three starters with sub-3.00 ERAs: Zack Godley (2.58). Zack Greinke (2.86) and Robbie Ray (2.97). —Connor Grossman

Colorado Rockies: A

(52–39, 9.5 games back in NL West, second place in Wild Card): Colorado rounds out a trio of legitimate playoff teams in the National League West. They couldn’t hold off the surging Dodgers atop the division and slipped to a 3-7 finish to the first half, but the Rockies have done a lot of good through 91 games. The upper-third of the team’s lineup is hitting over .300, led by Charlie Blackmon’s 20 home runs and 117 hits. The team’s pitching has receded a little bit, but there’s plenty of promise in Jon Gray and rookie Kyle Freeland, who came within two outs of a no-hitter last week. If the Rockies can pitch just well enough to buoy their potent offense, they’ll forge a path to the postseason for the first time since 2009. —Connor Grossman

Los Angeles Dodgers: A+

(61–29, first place in NL West): The Dodgers enter the second half with the look of the best team in baseball. Ever since rookie slugger Cody Bellinger arrived on April 25th, L.A. has won nearly 75% of its games and closed the first half on a 26–4 run. Bellinger’s record-setting home run pace doesn’t even speak to the focal point of the Dodgers’ success. Clayton Kershaw has pitched how we expect him to pitch, but he’s been complemented by a breakout year from Alex Wood and an MLB-best 3.24 ERA from the starting staff. There’s no indication the Dodgers will let go of their stranglehold on the NL West race. —Connor Grossman

San Diego Padres: C-

(38–50, 22 games back in NL West, 12.5 games back in Wild Card): Relative to rock-bottom expectations entering the year, everything about the Padres’ latest rebuilding season has been average.  Left-handed reliever Brad Hand was deservedly the team’s only All-Star, and perhaps its best trade chip. He’s been a pleasant surprise, holding lefties to a .192 average and right-handers to a .207 clip. Wil Meyers has played slightly below the bar he set last year, which earned him a six-year, $83 million contract extension. He’s slashing .255/.331/.466 with 16 homers and 42 RBI. Everything appears status quo in San Diego: It’s going to get worse before it gets better. —Connor Grossman

San Francisco Giants: F

(34–56, 27 games back in NL West, 17.5 games back in Wild Card): Failure is the only way to characterize the Giants season. The team has to be equal parts stunned and embarrassed by holding the second-worst record in baseball at the All-Star Break. Madison Bumgarner’s dirt biking incident isn’t nearly the crux of this team’s issues. The starting rotation has been far more fallible than anyone could have imagined, with Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Moore and Matt Cain regressing in various forms. The team needs to completely revamp its outfield, by far the worst in the majors defensively and offensively unreliable under the veteran watch of Denard Span and Hunter Pence. San Francisco has plenty of fixes to address should it hope to contend in 2018. —Connor Grossman

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