Tigers’ second half, future hinges on finding cohesiveness

Detroit Tigers

The unofficial halfway point of the MLB season is here, and while some teams are well on their way to securing a postseason spot, many are still trying to grasp where they stand coming out of the All-Star break.

With that in mind, we asked MLB.com’s beat reporters to assess each team’s current outlook and assign them one of four labels — All Systems Go, Things Are Looking Up, Ask Again Later or Work To Do.

Blue Jays: Looking at the talent stacked on this Blue Jays’ roster, they should be running away with an AL Wild Card spot behind the East-leading Yankees. In reality, it’s been a long, frustrating first half as the Blue Jays have battled through inconsistencies and a recent managerial change aimed at sparking the team down the stretch. The Trade Deadline is absolutely crucial for the Blue Jays, who need to build their rotation and bullpen depth, but this lineup needs to play up to its potential, too. The talent is there for a legitimate postseason run, but we still need to see all of these pieces work well together over a long stretch. Midterm Report: Ask Again Later

Orioles: Who would have thought? The Orioles, off the heels of a 10-game win streak, got themselves to .500 and within striking distance of an AL Wild Card spot come the All-Star break. They are playing an exciting brand of baseball, on a stellar winning pace ever since top prospect Adley Rutschman was called up toward the end of May, and have caught the hearts of many. The O’s were long thought to be bona fide sellers come the Trade Deadline, but another spate of success out of the break could very well see their intentions change. Still, some movement is expected as prospects wait in the wings. It’ll take two more weeks to really get a feel of the direction for 2022 specifically. Nonetheless, this season has been a far more exciting one than many predicted. Midterm Report: Things Are Looking Up

Rays: It hasn’t been smooth sailing by any means. The Rays’ injuries have piled up, with 17 players on the IL at one point. They’ve lost key players from their lineup (including shortstop Wander Franco), rotation (most recently Shane Baz) and bullpen (too many to name). And those injuries were, at times, too much for even their depth to withstand. Their offensive production has been inconsistent, and their previously peerless fundamentals have gone missing at times in the field and on the bases. Yet here they are atop the Wild Card race, with the AL’s third-best record at the break, due to their typically excellent pitching (headlined by All-Star Game starter Shane McClanahan), their knack for getting production from new faces and unexpected places, and an 11-5 finish to the first half. The AL East won’t do the Rays any favors, and their September schedule is grueling. But expect the resourceful Rays to get healthier and make some moves at the Trade Deadline in pursuit of a fourth straight postseason appearance. Midterm Report: Things Are Looking Up

Red Sox: Talk about a roller-coaster first half. The Red Sox got off to an 11-20 start, then went on a torrid stretch from May 13 through June 26 (31-11) to get right back into the thick of contention. But a cooling-off period and a barrage of injuries combined to halt the team’s momentum entirely. The Sox lost 14 of their last 20 games leading into the break, including six out of seven and 10 out of 13. On the Sunday before the break, Boston was just trying to get to the break in one piece. But that went for naught when ace Chris Sale — in just his second start back from a fractured right rib cage — suffered a fractured left pinkie finger in the first inning of his start at Yankee Stadium. There’s a chance Sale’s season is over after just two starts. Now the question is whether the Red Sox (48-45, two games back in the Wild Card standings) can get their mojo back without him, which they’ve had a lot of practice doing the last two seasons. It will be interesting to see if chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is a buyer, seller or a combination of both leading into the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline. Midterm Report: Ask Again Later

Yankees: The Yankees established a franchise record with 64 wins before the All-Star break, including a Major League-leading 11 walk-offs and 28 comeback victories. Asked to evaluate his team’s play, manager Aaron Boone said that he was pleased, adding, “We’re also keenly aware of how much longer we’ve got to go. All we’ve done is put ourselves in a great position to do something special.” Aaron Judge leads the Majors with 33 home runs and is a strong MVP candidate, but he hasn’t done it alone. The Yankees boasted six All-Stars (Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Clay Holmes and Jose Trevino), the most in the Majors and recognition of a season in which the club has shown the ability to win games in a variety of ways. Boone said that success inspired confidence in the clubhouse, noting that “it starts with the commitment the guys made from Day 1 in Spring Training. They’ve been really committed and obsessive with the details. The smaller things have showed up big for us at different times.” Midterm Report: All Systems Go

Guardians: There is way more excitement about this Guardians team than anyone projected heading into the year. Rookies like Steven Kwan, Oscar Gonzalez and now Nolan Jones have started to show how bright the club’s future may be. Because the AL Central has not been as competitive as other divisions, the Guardians can easily remain within striking distance of the Twins, despite floating around a .500 record for most of the season. Right now, the club doesn’t have all the tools it needs to make a run in the postseason. Because the competition within the division is rather weak, Cleveland could sneak its way into October baseball, but this will be much easier to evaluate in another month or six weeks, as this roller-coaster of a club that’s searching for consistency gets more games under its belt. Midterm Report: Ask Again Later

Royals: The Royals knew their success in 2022 would hinge on the improvement of their pitching, particularly the young pitchers, but it hasn’t been as seamless as one would hope. Kansas City is 36-56 and at the bottom of the American League Central — and its pitching staff is fourth worst in baseball in terms of ERA (4.80). However, the rotation is young outside of Zack Greinke, and each starter has shown flashes of success, including Brady Singer’s short run of consistency to end the first half. What has been especially encouraging for the Royals has been their offense under the guidance of hitting coordinator Alec Zumwalt. Several young hitters are beginning to shine, including Bobby Witt Jr. and Vinnie Pasquantino, and if the final series before the break showed anything, it’s that the offensive future is bright with more talent on the way. The second half should shed more light on who best fits long term and what the Royals need to do to complement them moving forward. Midterm Report: Work To Do

Tigers: The good news is that they have a young impact hitter atop the order in Riley Greene, a frontline starter in Tarik Skubal and a handful of hard-throwing young relievers. The bad news is the uncertainty everywhere else on the roster. Spencer Torkelson was optioned to Triple-A Toledo on Sunday after a rough offensive start to his big league career. Jeimer Candelario, Jonathan Schoop and Robbie Grossman all face uncertain futures after their downturns. Injuries to Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Alex Faedo, plus the absence of Eduardo Rodriguez, have put the rotation in flux despite the surprise emergence of Beau Brieske. Detroit needs to shake off the sense of a season adrift, use the second half to sort through its many issues, identify who really fits long term and plot a path forward in the rebuild. Midterm Report: Work To Do

Twins: On the one hand, the Twins have rebounded from a last-place finish in 2021 to surge back to the top of the American League Central at 50-44. On the other hand, they should be running away with this division — but the deep flaws in their bullpen (which seem to flare up particularly often against their divisional rivals) have stopped them from doing so. Traditional and advanced statistics both say that the Twins’ offense has been outstanding — but it has also been maddeningly boom-or-bust. The starting rotation has started to show some cracks at the top with recent struggles from Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan. And the bullpen has been a wild, inconsistent ride outside of first-year relievers Jhoan Duran and Griffin Jax, who have had two of the heaviest reliever workloads in the league. The pitching staff needs help. Can the Twins find it at the Deadline and hold off the White Sox and Guardians? Midterm Report: Ask Again Later

White Sox: The 46-46 record screams mediocrity, and the injury-plagued White Sox have played at that level during the first half. But in the American League Central, 92 games of overall average baseball still can leave you in contention for a division title. The team is getting healthier, with catcher Yasmani Grandal expected back from his injury rehab assignment for Game 1 of the second half on Friday at home against the Guardians. They also are starting to hit more home runs, as shown while taking three of four from the AL Central-leading Twins at Target Field to close the first half. They have a true staff ace in Dylan Cease and lockdown, high-leverage relievers, anchored by All-Star closer Liam Hendriks. If they start to win at home, where they currently have a 19-25 mark, the White Sox should be the division favorites. The third-place Sox closed the first half with a 5-3 road trip to Cleveland and Minnesota, going 5-1 after an 0-2 start to move within three games of first. Midterm Report: Things Are Looking Up

Angels: The Angels looked like a postseason club early in the season, as they were a season-best 11 games over .500 with a 24-13 record on May 15, but they went 15-40 over their next 55 games to head into the All-Star break a season-worst 14 games under .500 at 39-53. The Angels now appear likely to be sellers at the Trade Deadline and will need to turn it around to avoid yet another season under .500. The Angels haven’t had a winning record since 2015. Two-way star Shohei Ohtani is having another MVP-caliber season, but it’ll be up to the rest of the club to pick it up the rest of the way. Midterm Report: Work To Do

Astros: The Astros dominated the American League West in the first half and have shown their window of contention as a legitimate title contender remains wide open. They led the division by as many as 13 1/2 games in early July behind the best pitching staff in the AL, led by All-Stars Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez and a resilient bullpen. Offensively, Yordan Alvarez emerged as one of the game’s best hitters and rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña filled the void left by Carlos Correa in free agency. They’ll make a move at the Trade Deadline to get better, setting themselves up for another deep October run. Midterm Report: All Systems Go

Athletics: The A’s are dealing with expected struggles after a roster teardown that saw them trade away a handful of stars this spring. While the starting rotation has kept them in games more times than not, the leading factor to Oakland holding the worst record in the American League comes from an offense that ranks last in several statistical categories. As the A’s go through the first year of a rebuild, the focus for 2022 is all about identifying the next wave of talent that could eventually help them return to playoff contention. An expected key piece of Oakland’s future in No. 1 prospect Shea Langeliers should earn a call to the Majors at some point in the second half if he continues his current tear at Triple-A Las Vegas. Meanwhile, leftover stars from recent successful A’s squads such as right-hander Frankie Montas and outfielder Ramón Laureano could be moved at the Trade Deadline in exchange for players who can help bolster an improving farm system. Midterm Report: Work To Do

Mariners: In a span of just four weeks, Seattle has gone from 10 games under .500 to nine over, a remarkable turnaround after the season looked like it was slipping away. The Mariners entered the All-Star break riding a 14-game winning streak, the longest in MLB history leading into the Midsummer Classic. Moreover, they have firmly entrenched themselves in the AL Wild Card picture, and the prospect of snapping a 21-year playoff drought — the longest active streak in American professional sports — has looked much more real. They will also return their best player in the coming weeks when Mitch Haniger is activated from a high ankle sprain, and if Kyle Lewis bounces back from a concussion he suffered on May 28, his return won’t be far behind. Couple the Mariners’ rapid ascent up the standings with their urgency to end the playoff drought, and this club could be one of the more aggressive teams ahead of the Trade Deadline. Midterm Report: All Systems Go

Rangers: After being swept by the Mariners at home to end the first half, the Rangers sit at 41-49, well out of the American League Wild Card picture. Texas’ front office hasn’t been shy about saying the “true window of contention” doesn’t open until 2023, but there were raised expectations for the club this season following the blockbuster signings of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. Though the bar is low, ‘22 has clearly been a step in the right direction for the club after a 102-loss season in ‘21 put additional focus on the rebuild. The key in the second half of the season will be production from the Rangers’ young players, especially those on the pitching staff. Midterm Report: Work To Do

Braves: The 2022 World Series champs are in a far better spot than they were at this time last year. Ronald Acuña Jr. has slumbered over the past month, but the Braves have received great production from Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson. With Max Fried, Kyle Wright and Charlie Morton, Atlanta has three frontline starters. Spencer Strider’s great arm will continue impacting the rotation and possibly the bullpen. There aren’t many holes to fill, but the addition of an experienced starter could be valuable. Midterm Report: All Systems Go

Marlins: The Marlins are in the periphery of the National League Wild Card picture, even after getting swept by the Phillies to close out the first half. There’s only so much ace Sandy Alcantara and the pitching staff can do with an inconsistent offense desperately missing All-Star Jazz Chisholm Jr. How Miami fares to close out July will determine the organization’s Trade Deadline plans. Midterm Report: Ask Again Later

Mets: Considering the Mets played the entire first half without Jacob deGrom and much of it without Max Scherzer, they can’t be anything but pleased to have spent the past 96 days consecutively in first place. General manager Billy Eppler figures to put owner Steve Cohen’s resources to use at the Trade Deadline, with eyes on lefty relief and some offensive punch. But any criticisms of the Mets’ roster at this point are quibbles. This is one of the best teams in the NL, one with World Series aspirations. Midterm Report: All Systems Go

Nationals: The Nationals are in their first full season of a reboot rooted in developing young talent. They have struggled on the mound and at the plate in this new chapter. Three seasons out from winning the World Series, the Nats find themselves at the bottom of the National League standings. Following the All-Star break, Washington could get its first glimpse at projected future key pieces, such as Triple-A right-handers Cade Cavalli and Cole Henry. But the first half of the season came to a close with a massive question mark: will Juan Soto be part of that future, or will he be moved at the Trade Deadline? Midterm Report: Work To Do

Phillies: The Phillies are positioned to make the postseason for the first time since 2011. They have one of the better rotations in baseball, led by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, although the rotation might need help with questions about Zach Eflin’s health for the second half. They have a suddenly robust bullpen, led by Seranthony Dominguez and Brad Hand in the eighth and ninth innings, and Corey Knebel, Jose Alvarado, Connor Brogdon and others. And the lineup has the potential to mash. It’s thin at the moment with Bryce Harper and Jean Segura recovering from left thumb and right index finger surgeries, respectively. But both could be back as early as August. If so, the Phillies will add two big weapons to accompany Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins. Now, if they can only get Nick Castellanos to start hitting. Midterm Report: Things Are Looking Up

Brewers: The Brewers reached the break in first place in the National League Central, but there’s no doubt they are a flawed first-place team. Injuries took a bite out of the rotation during the first half, though most resolved before the break and things are looking up for Freddy Peralta, who remains on the IL. The hitters collectively rank 14th of 30 MLB teams in weighted runs created plus, with uncertainty in center field, perhaps third base if they want to continue moving Jace Peterson and Luis Urías around the field, and maybe left field if Christian Yelich’s stiff back again turns into a lingering concern. The bullpen’s big three (Brad Boxberger, Devin Williams and Josh Hader) looked like the strength of the team until Hader faltered in a big way during the week leading to the break. Bottom line: President of baseball operations David Stearns has a multitude of areas to explore as he looks to improve the team before the Trade Deadline, and prioritizing those will be critical. This team will probably look a little different come the first week of August. Midterm Report: Ask Again Later

Cardinals: The Cardinals collectively breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday after they survived a brutal stretch of 16 games in as many nights and 31 games in a 32-night stretch and found themselves still in the hunt. The challenging stretch coincided with a spate of injuries to key players. After tying for the league high with 94 games played and winning 50 games before the break for just the 14th time in franchise history, St. Louis should be able to feast on a much easier schedule in the second half. The Cardinals are hopeful they dodged a serious problem when Nolan Arenado’s low back pain flared up again, causing him to skip the All-Star Game. Also, they are confident they will get more from catcher Yadier Molina, left fielder Tyler O’Neill and starting pitcher Steven Matz — all of whom missed large chunks of the first half because of injuries — down the stretch. Whether front-line starter Jack Flaherty can return or not will likely determine the team’s focus come the Trade Deadline. As for the bullpen, it is both a strength and a concern. On the days when All-Star closer Ryan Helsley and setup men Genesis Cabrera and Giovanny Gallegos are available, the Cardinals have one of the best and most diverse bullpens in baseball. When Helsley is unavailable, closing out games is often an adventure. Clearly, the Cardinals need more pitching — be it in the starting rotation or out of the bullpen. If they can use their deep well of prospects to land a difference-making arm, they might be able to pass the Brewers for the Central crown and truly contend against the top teams in the NL. Midterm Report: Things Are Looking Up

Cubs: The Cubs went into last offseason with their rotation as the No. 1 priority and then went out and acquired a trio of veterans in Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley and Drew Smyly. Chicago also made one of the headline signings of the spring by reeling in Japanese star Seiya Suzuki. The best-case scenario seemed to be a club capable of being at least within range of the Wild Card bubble. Instead, injuries have decimated the rotation and roster, and the Cubs endured a brutal first half that put them on a 100-loss pace. It has clouded the ability to project how long this rebuild might last. Expect the Cubs to be sellers at the Trade Deadline (All-Star catcher Willson Contreras is atop the pile of chips) as they keep trying to construct the “next great Cubs team,” as president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has phrased it. And expect more development, along with growing pains, from younger players in the final two-plus months. Midterm Report: Work To Do

Pirates: The Pirates finished the first half at 39-54, which came with a mixed bag of team and individual results. Thankfully, the team didn’t endure many extensive losing streaks as it gave time to a host of rookies in the lineup with long-term injuries to established players like Jake Marisnick, Greg Allen and Roberto Pérez. But the Bucs did encounter more huge blowout losses than comfortable wins, leading to a minus-134 run differential that is second worst in the Majors behind Washington. A few surprises like Jack Suwinski’s home run pace and Mitch Keller’s sinker leading to a reduced ERA — plus Oneil Cruz’s Statcast-breaking ways — give the Bucs a few minor victories, but don’t let those convince you they’re on the path to contention just yet. Midterm Report: Work To Do

Reds: A fire sale of key players during Spring Training, a 3-22 start to the season and a rash of injuries put a huge dent in the season right away. The good news is that Cincinnati has played nearly .500 baseball since its rough start and just before the break won series over both the Rays and Yankees. The bad news is that several of the players who have lifted the club — Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Brandon Drury, among others — could be chips moved ahead of the Trade Deadline as the organization continues to build for the future. In the meantime, there will be time for continued development for younger pitchers like Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft as the team looks ahead. Midterm Report: Work To Do

D-backs: The good news is the D-backs are better than they were in 2021. The bad news? Considering they were 52-110, it would have been hard to be worse. They were just four games under .500 as late as June 19, but things have begun to unravel a bit for them since and they’ve fallen into last place in the NL West. The biggest thing they need to accomplish in 2022 has always been to begin incorporating their young players into the lineup and, eventually, rotation. They have one of the top-ranked farm systems in the game, and making sure their prospects get some experience and development at the big league level is a top priority in the second half. Midterm Report: Work To Do

Dodgers: After a shaky June, the Dodgers have shown everyone what they’re capable of in July. Los Angeles wrapped up a 10-1 homestand and followed that up by going 4-1 on the road against the Cardinals and Angels. Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner have been leading the way lately. The Dodgers are also, finally, getting contributions from Justin Turner and Max Muncy. Oh, and they have Mookie Betts, who quietly leads the team in home runs with 20. On the other side, the Dodgers have the best pitching staff in the Majors. They had three starters make the All-Star team in Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson; Julio Urías also made a strong case. It might’ve taken them a little longer than planned, but the Dodgers are 30 games over .500 and might just be getting started. Midterm Report: All Systems Go

Giants: Everything seemed to break right for the Giants as they cruised to a franchise-record 107 wins in 2021, but it’s been far from smooth sailing so far this year. A 4-14 slide caused them to drop out of the playoff picture, though they’re still only a half-game behind the Phillies for the final National League Wild Card spot. They appeared to turn a corner by winning seven of their final nine games leading into the All-Star break, but they’ll have to sustain their momentum in the second half to avoid transitioning from buyers to sellers at the Trade Deadline. The Giants’ talented starting rotation, headlined by co-aces Logan Webb and Carlos Rodón, has the potential to carry the club moving forward, but San Francisco will need to clean up its shaky defense and get more consistent production out of the lineup to continue to make up ground in the standings. Midterm Report: Work To Do

Padres: The Padres didn’t have their superstar shortstop for the entirety of the first half. Their superstar third baseman, Manny Machado, shouldered much of the offensive burden. But then he, too, was sidelined for a short spell. The team dealt with a number of other injuries in the outfield and bullpen. And yet, the Padres still find themselves squarely in position for a Wild Card spot, likely to bolster their offense at the Trade Deadline. As sloppy as things got in late June and early July, the Padres couldn’t realistically have asked for much more to this point in the season. There are some notable flaws that need to be addressed, particularly on offense. But with a rotation like this one, and with Fernando Tatis Jr. progressing toward a return to action, the Padres can be optimistic about where they’re headed in the second half. Midterm Report: Things Are Looking Up

Rockies: The Rockies entered the season lacking the depth of top clubs, but the big-ticket signing of Kris Bryant, combined with some solid bats and starting pitchers who had accomplished more than any group in club history gave them a chance. Bryant’s back injury and some early slumps set them back early. But Bryant has returned, righty Germán Márquez has found his groove and they’re getting big performances from C.J. Cron, Charlie Blackmon and Brendan Rodgers. They’re still fourth in the National League West and 6 1/2 games out of the Wild Card, but they enter the second half having gone 12-8 over their last 20. General manager Bill Schmidt is offering the team every chance to play its way back into the race and justify not parting with talent (closer Daniel Bard, setup man Alex Colomé and shortstop José Iglesias are the likely trade candidates; dealing Cron would be a shock). Of three options — build up, stay the course or tear down — the Rockies have no desire to take the third, even if many teams with their record would not hesitate. Midterm Report: Work To Do

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