San Diego Padres morning after: MVP, LVP and unsung hero of the first half

At the 81-game mark of the season, the players who have stood out in good and bad ways for the San Diego Padres

San Diego Padres second baseman Ha-Seong Kim
San Diego Padres second baseman Ha-Seong Kim / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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Thursday's thud in Pittsburgh not only signified the San Diego Padres getting swept by the Pirates and losing their eight game in their last 10 outings, but also the official end of the first half of the season.

While next weekend's All-Star Game will be seen by many as the end of the first half of the 2023 MLB campaign, the Padres headed to Cincinnati on Thursday night with a record of 37-44. After 81 games, the exact halfway point of the 162-game schedule, San Diego had earned the title of one of the biggest disappointments in baseball this season.

So who is San Diego's Most Valuable Player, Least Valuable Player and Most Overlooked Player of the first 81 games? Following are my thoughts on the subject. Feel free to disagree and chime in by following us on Twitter (@FriarsOnBase).

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San Diego Padres: Most Valuable Player of the first 81 games

We are going with Juan Soto here. It's hard (at least for us) to argue with a guy who is slashing 268/.424/.489 and a team-leading .913 OPS while playing in all 81 games so far.

Considering Soto was getting so much criticism to start the season after slashing just .202/.373/.384 through the end of April, the 24-year-old All-Star outfielder has turned things around in a big way. Now the question becomes what the Padres will do with him moving forward? Will he stay in San Diego (he's not due to be a free agent until 2025) or could the Padres possibly send him packing at the MLB trade deadline?

Also in the running: Michael Wacha, Fernando Tatis Jr., Josh Hader