Baseball season never really ends. The second that David Murphy’s fly ball was caught and all of St. Louis celebrated, MLB’s patented “hot stove” fired up. Where was Albert Pujols going now that he was a World Champion again? Where would Prince Fielder end up after many years of monster production in Milwaukee? Where would Japanese phenom Yu Darvish end up pitching in 2012? These were the questions that have captivated baseball fans since November, and now that the dust is settled, we have answers.
But what do these answers mean for your gaming? Which of these players in new places will really enhance your experience with MLB 12: The Show? Here are 6 guys (there’s a tie) who collectively make their teams both better and more interesting for this year’s edition of The Show.
5) CJ Wilson
Old Team: Texas Rangers
New Team: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2011 Stats: 16-7, 223.1 IP, 2.94 ERA
One of the best rotations in baseball finds a way to get even better with the addition of CJ Wilson. With Dan Haren, Jared Weaver, and Ervin Santana already in place, the Angels added a luxury player at one of the most important positions in baseball. Los Angeles’s top 3 starters last year posted a collective 2.96 ERA, so the last thing the rest of the AL West wanted to see them do was add another sub-3.00 ERA guy. Wilson also brings with him postseason experience, having pitched Texas to the World Series the last two seasons. Maybe the best news of all for Los Angeles, though, is that they picked him up from a division rival. Texas’s loss is Los Angeles’s gain, and combined with the Angels’ other acquisitions this winter, they now find themselves being the team to beat in the AL West.
What this means for your Show time is that the American League now has a rotation that, while it isn’t as good as Philadelphia’s, is insanely good. With the oldest of these aces in their early 30’s, the Angels have the makings of a dominant Franchise Mode team right from the start.
4) Michael Pineda/Jesus Montero
Old Team: Seattle Mariners/New York Yankees
New Team: New York Yankees/Seattle Mariners
2011 Stats: 9-10, 171.0 IP, 3.74 ERA/.328/.406/.590, 4 HR, 12 RBI
I can’t decide, so I’m going with the tie.
A true offseason shocker of a deal was pulled off between the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners this winter. The Yankees sent prized hitting prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle for their prized pitching prospect, Michael Pineda. It’s a deal that is rare in sports today, as it’s mutually beneficial. Seattle desperately needs a bat, they think Montero can be that guy, and New York acquires a young ace to pair with CC Sabathia in a rotation that was supposed to be a weakness this year.
Montero’s place in Seattle is an interesting one. He likely won’t be a major league catcher, but can he hit enough to justify dealing one half of the best young pitching duo in baseball? Montero tore up AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year in the Yankees farm system on his way to a September call-up. And once he got to the Majors, he didn’t disappoint there either, hitting .328 in 69 plate appearances with 4 homers.
What Montero gives Seattle is a prominent bat. They’ve lacked a hitter that’s truly feared for awhile now, and if Montero’s potential pans out into what baseball scouts and experts think he could become, he will be that bat that the Mariners have sorely lacked for years now. Combine him with the Mariners other young standout, Dustin Ackley, and a pitching staff that still boasts one of the best in the game in Felix Hernandez, and the future in Seattle looks as bright as it could be.
Michael Pineda’s numbers in his 2011 rookie season don’t tell the whole story. He is a guy with unlimited potential, and he will likely prove to be the ace of the Yankees staff at some point in the future. This is the young ace prospect that the Yankees don’t seem to have very often, and despite fairly pedestrian numbers last year, Pineda bursts with so much potential that Yankees fans should look ahead to the future with a big smile. Because they have the money to eventually long-term Pineda when his contract comes up, look for Michael to be in New York for the majority of the rest of his career. A career that figures to be a dominant one.
The Yankees don’t often have a lot of youth to build around in The Show. Their best players (Mark Texiera, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, and Derek Jeter) are all over 30, so while you can spend yourself silly with them in Franchise Mode, if you want to go with a youth movement, it’s generally a rebuilding process. Enter Pineda, who will likely progress to be an ace, given his potential rating which will surely be an A. Pineda gives you the young ace to build around, freeing you up to to begin the process of drafting the players needed to replace guys like A-Rod and Jeter, who don’t figure to have many years left in the league.
3) Yu Darvish
Old Team: Nippon-Ham Fighters (Japan)
New Team: Texas Rangers
2011 Stats: 18-6, 232.0 IP, 1.44 ERA
What’s more fun than the unknown in a video game? Whether you’re delving into a new dungeon in Skyrim or you’re starting a new level in Call of Duty, the unknown is one of the best parts of gaming. Yu Darvish is sports gaming’s equivalent of this unknown phenomenon. Unless you’re a professional scout reading this, you likely have never watched Yu Darvish throw a pitch (save for maybe the World Baseball Classic). So you look at the numbers, and those numbers are eye-popping. A 1.44 ERA. For a starter. Darvish dominated Japan as much as he could, and now he’s coming stateside.
Texas posted a mind boggling 51.7 million dollars just for the rights to negotiate with the Japanese phenom. But that’s none of your concern in The Show. Posting fees mean nothing contractually. What you’ll have when piloting the Rangers is a 25 year old possible ace with likely A potential, and he’s locked up for 6 years at the perfectly reasonable sum of 10 million dollars per year. When you combine the fun factor of playing with an unknown quantity with the unlimited potential and reasonable contract, you have one of the biggest game-changers in The Show this year.
2) Albert Pujols
Old Team: St. Louis Cardinals
New Team: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2011 Stats: .299/.366/.541, 37 HR, 99 RBI
Nobody really thought Albert Pujols was going anywhere. Not fans, not organizations, probably not even Albert Pujols himself. He flirted with the Miami Marlins, but St. Louis finally got serious in the bidding and it seemed like it was just a matter of time until Albert inked that contract that made him a Cardinal for life and re-affirmed his hero status in that city. Then, a “mystery team” entered the process late. As fate would have it, that mystery team was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Fresh off inking CJ Wilson, the Angels weren’t done, and they offered Albert the moon. 10 years, 254 million. The money was more than St. Louis was willing to go to, and Albert was on his way to LA.
It was a bit of a down year for Albert. He drove in a career low 99 RBI, played 147 games (only once has he played less), and failed to make the .300 batting average mark for the first time in his career. All of that said, the man is still a monster. And he makes an otherwise boring Angels lineup endlessly intriguing. The Pujols acquisition makes for an intriguing Franchise in The Show, because how long do you ride that horse? He’s 32 already, he’s under contract for the next 10 years, how long before the horse finally breaks down? When does that contract become the inevitable albatross? Pujols, along with CJ Wilson, makes the Angels a favorite in the AL both in game and in real life for the forseeable future, but there will come a time when you have to cut bait. And that’s what makes Pujols so intriguing as a GM in MLB: The Show. When do you cut bait with him and begin your rebuild? It’s an interesting dilemma, to be sure, and one that makes the Angels both a fun team to play as immediately, but a test of your GM skills down the line.
1) Prince Fielder
Old Team: Milwaukee Brewers
New Team: Detroit Tigers
2011 Stats: .299/.415/.566, 38 HR, 120 RBI
The lingering question in Milwaukee for years was finally answered this winter: Where will Prince Fielder go next? Speculation and trade rumors have run rampant for years, but Prince played out his contract in Milwaukee, led them to the NLCS with a MVP-type year, and now hit the open market for the first time in his career. After much delay where it appeared the market for Fielder might not be what he hoped, Prince finally cashed in. 9 years, 214 million for one of baseball’s best young hitters. Fielder has the power to mash anywhere, and there’s no doubt that he will. He’ll continue to play first base in Detroit, while shifting Miguel Cabrera over to third.
Fielder had Ryan Braun hitting in front of him for the first portion of his career, and it always made the Brewers an entertaining team to play as in The Show. He doesn’t lose that allure here, as Miguel Cabrera is just as good an option as Braun was. Fielder comes with the added bonus of youth, though. He’ll be your first basemen in Detroit for the next 9 years (should you choose the Tigers), but that only keeps him there to 36. He never gets to the age dilemma that you’ll inevitably face with Albert Pujols. Fielder’s shifting of Cabrera over to third base will be a defensive concern in real life, but this is video games. Just hit the ball over the fence a lot and you should win most games. The core of Fielder, Cabrera, and Justin Verlander makes this easily the most alluring team in The Show. Being able to hit with 2 of the top 10 hitters in the game on offense, and every fifth day you’ll get to pitch with likely the best starter in the game is an allure that no team can top. With the addition of Fielder, the Tigers should make for the most well-balanced and fun experience in this year’s edition of MLB: The Show.