MLB 12: The Show Franchise Mode Division Preview #1 – NL East

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Not unlike a Stephen Strasburg fastball, MLB 12: The Show is rapidly approaching. March 6th grows closer with every passing day, and with that fast approaching release date comes a question that often vexes many gamers: “What team should I be?”. Considering you’re attached to this team for the entirety of a 162 game season plus playoffs, this is a pretty major decision and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

We here at StickSkills are here to help. Beginning today, we’ll be walking you through every team to help you find the one that’s right for you. We begin today with our first division of teams, the National League East.

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Atlanta Braves

The Impact Veterans: Chipper Jones, Tim Hudson, Brian McCann

The Young Guns: Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel

The Scouting Report: One of the more balanced teams as far as established veterans and exciting young guys that you’ll find in MLB 12, Atlanta is instantly a very intriguing option. You’re set up pretty well to win now, and win in the future if you play it right. Chipper Jones is obviously aging, I would imagine the game will retire him on you after one or two years of your Franchise, but even after that you’ll have plenty of offense left with Brian McCann and a progressing Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. The Braves offense is well balanced, allowing you to pummel the ball with guys like McCann, Heyward, and Dan Uggla, but you can also steal bases to your heart’s content with Michael Bourn, who may be literally impossible to throw out in a video game.

The pitching staff loses Derek Lowe, but it’s still incredibly solid (as is tradition in Atlanta). Tim Hudson is the veteran of the staff, but every bit his equal is 26 year old Jair Jurrjens, who posted a sub-3.00 ERA last year on his way to a 13-6 record. Jurrjens forms part of a young core of talent in that rotation, as he’s joined by Tommy Hanson and Brandon Beachy, who are also very promising and in their mid-20’s. The back end is as solid as there is in Major League Baseball. Jonny Venters posted a 1.84 ERA in 88 innnings last year setting up for Craig Kimbrel, who took the league by storm last year, saving 46 games with a 2.10 ERA on his way to the National League Rookie of the Year award.

The Strategy: Win early, then keep on winning. You’ll lose Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson early in your Franchise, but the pieces are there for a dynasty in Atlanta if you manage them right.

The Conclusion: Blending the young talent needed to build a future winner with enough established impact veterans to win right now, Atlanta is a dream scenario for a prospective MLB 12 GM.

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Miami Marlins

The Impact Veterans: Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson

The Young Guns: Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton

The Scouting Report: Miami might be a little more loaded than one would think initially. You can run your opponent to death with Reyes, Ramirez, and Emilio Bonifacio if you wish. Or, you could bash longballs with Ramirez, Morrison, and Stanton. The choice is yours. It’s really all about how you would rather play the game, because Miami is built to succeed with either strategy.  This team is young, even the veterans I listed are all 28, so they’re built to be good for awhile.

Miami’s pitching staff is less exciting, but still pretty good. Josh Johnson was downright dominant last year before falling to injury, to the tune of going 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA. He’s 28, but fragile, and you’ll have to weigh that when deciding how much you’d like to pitch him in your season. Johnson is joined by Mark Buerhle, Javier Vasquez, Anibal Sanchez, and Ricky Nolasco. A perfectly adequate staff, with one very remarkable ace if you can keep him healthy. The backend now boasts Heath Bell, who figures to be one of the best in the game at his position. The rest of the bullpen might be a bit of an adventure, but at least you know you have a stopper at the end.
And finally there’s always the allure of a new stadium. Marlins Park makes it’s debut this year, and The Show has given it the virtual treatment in painstaking detail:

The Strategy: Your window is probably about 6 years with this team. Your superstars are in their late twenties, and if you can keep them healthy and keep them in Miami you’ll have a good chance at making some noise in a contentious NL East. Shrewd GM’s will use this early success to build to help grow your team and bring in some young promising prospects to compliment Stanton and Morrison.

The Conclusion: Blending speed and power, Miami will be a fun team to play as on the field. They’ll test your GM skills a bit in the future, but to start out you’re looking at a team with a nice lineup, good pitching, and a beautiful new ballpark (despite that… thing… in left center).

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New York Mets

The Impact Veterans: David Wright and… oh boy. Johan Santana, maybe.

The Young Guns: Ike Davis

The Scouting Report: Well… at least you still have David Wright. There’s almost nothing else here. Ike Davis will probably be a pretty decent hitter. Daniel Murphy’s pretty decent. Jason Bay might be pretty good in the game (Keep on surviving on that name recognition, Jason!). But, man, this really is a depleted lineup. You’re going to struggle, there’s no way around that.

The pitching staff isn’t a whole lot better, either. Johan Santana will probably be good. Dillion Gee and RA Dickey might not suck. But what else is there? Mike Pelfrey? This whole staff is just… blah. There’s almost nothing to like here. If I need a staff to help me climb a mountain, I’ll probably call the Mets, but other than that there isn’t much here to like either.

The Strategy: Sell. There’s no reason to have David Wright at this point. Sell him for all the blue-chip prospects you can get to rebuild this team. You’re just wasting David Wright on a team that’s probably 4 or 5 years away. Just get rid of him now, take your prospects and look to the future.

The Conclusion: If despair and depression are for you, you’ve stumbled upon the right team. You’ll lose now, and you’ll lose in the future! Only a masochist would take this team, but we trust that a few of you will, so be prepared to rebuild from the ground up. This is the Legend Difficulty of Franchise Mode. If you can win with this roster, you deserve a job in an actual MLB front office.

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Philadelphia Phillies

The Impact Veterans: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard

The Young Guns: Domonic Brown and Vance Worley

The Scouting Report: It’s really not fair that a team is allowed to be this good. Halladay, Lee, Howard, Rollins, Utley, Victorino, Pence, Hamels, Papelbon, the list goes on and on of elite players on this team. The lineup is as good as any in the National League, with the abundance of sluggers making up for a general lack of speed from everyone besides Pence and Victorino. You could hit 50 homers with Howard, and probably be in the neighborhood of 20-30 with Pence, Victorino, Rollins, Utley, and probably even Jim Thome if you play him enough. There probably isn’t a lineup in the NL more built to mash the ball out of the park than this one is. Scary, scary hitters in the 1-8 spots.

And then there’s the rotation. Two of the top probably 5 to 10 starters in the Majors in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, another elite starter in Cole Hamels, and a young up-and-comer in Vance Worley who posted a 3.01 ERA with 11 wins in 21 starts last year. Oh, and Joe Blanton. But I won’t mention him again if you don’t. An absolutely loaded rotation, and they have Johnathan Papelbon coming over from Boston to lock things down in the back end.

The Strategy: Win now. All of that great stuff I mentioned, it’s all got a bit of age on it. Outside of Vance Worley, nobody mentioned in that section is younger than 28 (Pence and Hamels), and the really elite guys are into their 30’s. With not a whole lot to speak of in terms of young blue-chip guys, you can win your World Series titles now, and rebuild in a few years when guys like Halladay and Rollins start retiring on you.

The Conclusion: A dominant team early. If you want to just win your World Series straight out of the gate, this is on the short list of teams for you. If you want a challenge as a GM, you may want to look elsewhere. Or simulate through the first 5 years.

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Washington Nationals

The Impact Veterans: Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Michael Morse

The Young Guns: Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Jordan Zimmermann, Wilson Ramos

The Scouting Report: Washington’s lineup is pretty average, maybe slightly above average right now. Ryan Zimmerman is consistent and underappreciated, Jayson Werth is capable of great things (certainly much better than he showed last year), and Michael Morse knocks the cover off the ball with regularity. Outside of those guys, there isn’t much. Wilson Ramos is pretty good, and he’s young so who knows where his ceiling is, Roger Bernadina is a defensive highlight reel but a light hitter, and Ian Desmond is… well he’s perfectly okay. Not a great lineup, but you can score runs with it.

Any discussion of Washington’s pitching staff pretty much begins and ends with Stephen Strasburg. The kid is electric, with unlimited potential and the stuff to be one of the best pitchers in the game. He’s an injury risk, though, and a gamer taking control of Washington may want to put him on an innings limit or something to keep him from getting hurt again, though. You can pair Strasburg with another young burgeoning star in Jordan Zimmermann. Zimmermann was just 8-11 last year, but an ERA of 3.18 he showed plenty of promise and showed that he’s not the only potential star on the staff. An offseason trade also brought 26 year old Gio Gonzalez to Washington. Another young, promising arm who went 16-12 with a 3.12 ERA last year in Oakland and only figures to get better now that he’s entering the prime of his career. The rest of the staff is filled with guys who are disposable. Your John Lannans and Chien-Ming Wangs. The back-end sees Drew Storen, a young closer who’s only 24 but posted 43 saves last year with a 2.75 ERA. Tyler Clippard also figures prominently into this bullpen. The 26 year old goggled one posted a 1.84 ERA in 88.0 innings pitched last year. And finally, the Nats acquired Brad Lidge fresh out of Philly this offseason, solidifying a terrifying trio of relief pitchers that opponents will fear facing.

The Strategy: Win next year. All those young guns in the section a little ways back are fantastic prospects. Strasburg and his sure A potential will progress into one of the best pitchers in MLB 12, Zimmermann will become a frontline guy, and Storen will become a shutdown closer. A few savvy moves by a prospective GM will net you the offensive firepower you need to be a team that can not only contend in the East, but has the potential to win you a World Series.

The Conclusion: An exciting young team that allows you to play with a few of the best young players in the game. The lack of Bryce Harper hurts their playability a little, but if Harper makes Washington’s opening day roster in real life I would highly suggest waiting on starting a Franchise with this team until the first roster update. Harper’s presence gives you a blue-chip offensive prospect and a feared hitter to pair with Morse in the middle of your lineup. The offense can hit a little without him, but with Harper there it becomes explosive.

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