Tonight marks the beginning of the second half of the 2017 Major League Baseball season. Despite being 12 games under .500 and in fourth place in the National League's West Division, the San Diego Padres have plenty of reasons to be excited. The team's active roster includes 13 players who spent at least part of this season or 2016 playing with the El Paso Chihuahuas. Manager Andy Green and his staff have done a commendable job incorporating many of the organization's top young talent into their everyday lineup. The results so far have been encouraging.

On the surface, the Padres offensive numbers have been bad. The team ranks last in baseball in batting average. However, Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges are two of the Padres' top home run hitters, with 16 and 113 respectively. Both rookies are also hitting less than .250, as they are still adjusting to big league pitchers. Manny Margot got off to a hot start, but an injury caused him to miss nearly a month of action. Ryan Schimpf has hit 14 home runs in 53 games, but his .158 batting average was the main reason San Diego sent him back down to the Chihuahuas to work on his hitting. Schimpf is batting .266 with El Paso, but is drawing walks and could soon find himself back with the Padres. Rookie Jose Pirela has been one of their best stories of the first half, with a .286 batting average in 29 games for San Diego, and he has the ability to play both second base and the outfield.

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As for pitching, the Padres starting rotation has been a mixed bag. Veteran Jered Weaver struggled in his nine starts to the tune of a 7.44 ERA and the Padres might part ways with him as he recovers from a hip injury. In his absence, rookie Dinelson Lamet has dazzled at times, but he has also been hit hard. Still, the Padres love his makeup and will give him plenty of opportunities to settle into their rotation as a permanent fixture. Veterans Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard, and Trevor Cahill have all pitched well for San Diego, while 24-year old Luis Perdomo continues to improve in his second season with the club. The Padres' bullpen ranks 23rd out of 30 MLB teams with a record of 14-17 and a 4.59 ERA. Closer Brandon Maurer has 17 saves in 38 games, but his 5.60 ERA is the second highest of his career. Keep an eye on former Chihuahuas closer Phil Maton. He has pitched well in 14 games with San Diego, including his first save and 14 strikeouts in 12 innings.

I do not expect the Padres to contend for a Wild Card spot, but it would not surprise me if they finish near .500 for the rest of the season. The team has been gaining more confidence each time out, and San Diego finished June with a record of 11-14. They seemed to show signs of life after manager Andy Green got into a dispute with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. As their youngsters get more big league experience, the future looks bright for the Padres.