The All-Star break typically marks the unofficial halfway point of the MLB season, but teams are currently closing in on their 81st games of the year. Let's take a look at the lay of the land in the National League.
Atlanta Braves (44-31, 1st in division)
The surprise division champions from 2018 have surged into the lead on the back of an outstanding offensive core featuring Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Josh Donaldson, and rookie powerhouse Austin Riley. The pitching staff has been up and down, but the club is hoping Dallas Keuchel can help stabilize the rotation upon his debut this weekend.
MVP: Ronald Acuna Jr.
Most Disappointing: Mike Foltynewicz
Breakout: Austin Riley
Biggest Need: Closer
Miami Marlins (26-46, 5th)
The rebuild isn't bearing nearly as much fruit as it should be after the team dispatched Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto, and Dee Gordon in trades over the last two years. While some of the young pitchers (Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara, Trevor Richards, Caleb Smith) have yielded positive results, former top prospect Lewis Brinson has been a catastrophe at the big-league level (.190 batting average in 157 games). Rookie Jordan Yamamoto has kicked off his career with 14 straight scoreless innings - all in two starts against the Cardinals.
MVP: Pablo Lopez
Most Disappointing: Lewis Brinson
Breakout: Garrett Cooper
Biggest Need: More youth
New York Mets (35-39, 4th)
Rookie slugger Pete Alonso has obliterated opposing pitching, helping salvage an otherwise uneven first half alongside the potent bats of Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil. Jacob deGrom has been good, though not world-beating, and Noah Syndergaard is injured again. Edwin Diaz hasn't quite lived up to expectations, and the entire bullpen has been white-knuckling it so far.
MVP: Pete Alonso
Most Disappointing: Zack Wheeler
Biggest Need: Reliever depth
Philadelphia Phillies (39-34, 2nd)
The Bryce Harper era has arrived with mixed results, as the $330-million man has struggled somewhat en route to a .243/.360/.457 slash line and 12 home runs in 73 games. Losing Andrew McCutchen hurts as he was an early candidate for comeback player of the year, and ace Aaron Nola hasn't looked as unhittable as he did a year ago. Still, J.T. Realmuto has more than lived up to expectations, Rhys Hoskins continues to be a steady presence, Zach Eflin has helped buoy the rotation, and Scott Kingery has reminded everyone why there was so much hype around him entering 2018.
MVP: J.T. Realmuto
Most Disappointing: Bryce Harper/Maikel Franco
Breakout: Scott Kingery
Biggest Need: Outfielder
Washington Nationals (35-38, 3rd)
Here's your leading candidate for the first half's most frustrating team. Anthony Rendon (.309, 16 HRs), Max Scherzer (2.62 ERA, 12.36 K/9), and Stephen Strasburg (3.75 ERA, 10.78 K/9) have played their parts appropriately, for the most part, and Howie Kendrick has enjoyed a nice resurgence at the dish. Above all, the bullpen and its collective 6.20 ERA has been Washington's greatest undoing so far.
MVP: Anthony Rendon
Most Disappointing: The bullpen - excluding Sean Doolittle
Biggest Need: A new bullpen
Chicago Cubs (40-33, 1st)
After a down season, the offense has some rejuvenated thump with a .786 OPS, good for fourth in the NL. Kris Bryant has regained MVP form while Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo have been steady presences in the lineup. Craig Kimbrel should help patch up an underwhelming bullpen once he's ready, leaving the rotation to pick up the slack. Unable to find the strike zone earlier in the year, struggling starter Yu Darvish has at least been limiting the walks in recent games.
MVP: Kris Bryant
Most Disappointing: Yu Darvish
Biggest Need: Another bullpen arm
Cincinnati Reds (34-38, 4th)
It's been a curious season indeed for the Reds, a team with a losing record despite owning a plus-40 run differential (fifth-best in the NL). Featuring a rebounding Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, and genuine ace Luis Castillo, the rotation has a 3.53 ERA despite playing all of its home games at offensive haven Great American Ballpark. Joey Votto's decline has been hard to watch, but Derek Dietrich has brought the fireworks and Nick Senzel has given a glimpse of a bright future.
MVP: Luis Castillo
Most Disappointing: Joey Votto/Yasiel Puig
Breakout: Nick Senzel/Derek Dietrich
Biggest Need: Rotation depth
Milwaukee Brewers (40-34, 2nd)
All reigning MVP Christian Yelich has done is prove his incredible second half was no fluke. He's led the offense by hitting .345/.441/.743 with 27 home runs and 16 stolen bases, giving him an outside chance at baseball's first 40-40 season since Alfonso Soriano in 2006. The rotation needs help, but Brandon Woodruff has really settled in as a starter after serving primarily as a reliever last year.
Pittsburgh Pirates (33-40, 5th)
Josh Bell and rookie Bryan Reynolds have been the bright spots in what's looking like yet another lost season on the Allegheny. Bell will almost certainly be the team's All-Star representative after hitting 20 first-half bombs, but there's not much else to celebrate. Jameson Taillon is injured, Chris Archer has a 5.85 ERA, and Gregory Polanco has once again failed to justify the hype.
MVP: Josh Bell
Most Disappointing: Chris Archer
Breakout: Bell/Bryan Reynolds
Biggest Need: Prospect capital
St. Louis Cardinals (38-35, 3rd)
The aggressively mediocre Cardinals haven't gotten the production from big offseason acquisition Paul Goldschmidt, but he's hardly been the lone culprit. Matt Carpenter has once again struggled to open the season but doesn't appear much closer to turning things around. The entire pitching staff - other than John Gant, of all people - has failed to find a groove. If it wasn't for Paul DeJong and Marcell Ozuna, this team wouldn't somehow be clinging to a winning record.
MVP: Paul DeJong
Most Disappointing: Paul Goldschmidt
Breakout: John Gant
Biggest Need: Bullpen depth, left-handed bat
Arizona Diamondbacks (38-37, tied for 3rd)
With his 8-3 record, 2.91 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and near no-hitter against the Nationals - a milestone he seemed content to avoid - Zack Greinke could well be a coveted trade chip. On the offensive side of things, Ketel Marte and 2018 acquisition Eduardo Escobar have combined for 37 home runs, 32 doubles, and 108 RBIs.
MVP: Zack Greinke
Most Disappointing: Zack Godley
Breakout: Ketel Marte
Biggest Need: Prospect capital
Colorado Rockies (39-34, 2nd)
After a frigid 3-12 start to the season, the red-hot Rockies have been nigh unstoppable. Though home splits are still more favorable for the offense, Nolan Arenado has more home runs (10) away from Coors Field than at it and also has a .293 road batting average. Charlie Blackmon has been on a tear over his last eight games, batting .512 with five home runs, four doubles, and 13 RBIs. And that's without accounting for solid showings from Trevor Story and David Dahl. The rotation has been asked to do just enough, and it's been up to the task more often than not.
MVP: Nolan Arenado
Most Disappointing: Kyle Freeland
Breakout: David Dahl
Biggest Need: Pitching depth
Los Angeles Dodgers (50-25, 1st)
The Dodgers have barely broken a sweat en route to a 10-game lead in the division thanks to an unbelievable start from Cody Bellinger (the NL MVP to this point) and the rotation's clockwork reliability led by Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler, and Clayton Kershaw. Corey Seager's comeback was unfortunately stalled by another injury, but he was starting to look like his old self at the plate before his hamstring hobbled him.
San Diego Padres (38-37, tied for 3rd)
Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and right-hander Chris Paddack have given Padres fans a glimpse of what awaits. There's more youth coming to join Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, and the powerful combo of Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe, so even if 2019 doesn't quite represent the dawn of a new age, it could be the calm before the storm. Better things are coming as soon as 2020.
MVP: Hunter Renfroe
Most Disappointing: Ian Kinsler
Breakout: Fernando Tatis Jr./Chris Paddack
Biggest Need: Rotation help
San Francisco Giants (31-41, 5th)
The only compelling narrative by the Bay is where Madison Bumgarner will be playing after the trade deadline. The rebuilding Giants desperately need to get younger, and MadBum is one of the few legitimate trade chips in their possession. The 29-year-old has a 3.87 ERA through 15 starts but has a legendary track record in the postseason.
MVP: Madison Bumgarner
Most Disappointing: Brandon Crawford
Biggest Need: Youth, outfielders