MLB 12: The Show Franchise Mode Division Preview #2 – AL 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. We’ll be walking you through every team to help you find the one that’s right for you. We continue today with our second division, the AL East.

Part #1: National League East

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Baltimore Orioles

The Impact Veterans: Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones

The Young Guns: Matt Wieters, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz

The Scouting Report: In the piece I did on the NL East for Thursday, every roster had a defined story. Washington was the up-and-comers, Philadelphia the established veterans, the Mets were hopeless, and on and on. This is the first roster I’ve encountered in doing this that’s just… blah. Outside of Wieters and his likely A potential and future superstar status in your Franchise, what else is here besides some guys that are at most “pretty good”? Markakis will be one of their better rated players, I’m sure, and he hit .284 with 15 homers last year. What does that get you? A solid B for contact and maybe a C- for power? Woohoo. Roberts is a decent contact hitter, and he can run a bit, but he’s not all that exciting. His .221/.273/.331 line last year will probably kill his rating, despite it only being accumulated in 39 games. And he’s 34, so what you get is what you get, he’s not a guy who’s bursting with potential at this point in his career. Mark Reynolds is there if D contact/B+ power guys are your forte. Striking out’s more difficult in a video game, so you might actually be able to make him a far better player than he is in real life. Really all you have to be excited about on offense, though, is Matt Wieters and all his potential, JJ Hardy, who figures to be a guy with solid contact ratings and above average power ratings, and Adam Jones who finally had a solid year after years of breakout predictions. Jones is interesting, because he’s probably going to be their best player overall (a .280, 25 HR, 83 RBI season will do that for you), but he’s also young. Only 26, Jones still figures to have decent potential, as high as a B+/A-, so you should be getting a guy who could progress into a legit superstar in just a few short years. Other than Jones, though, it’s just… blah.

Their best starter, Jeremy Guthrie is gone. Shipped off to Colorado for 29  year old, 4.75 ERA guy Jason Hammel and 31 year old Matt Lindstrom, who’s perfectly okay at this point in his career. Now anchoring the rotation is 24 year old Zach Britton, who put up similar numbers to Hammel last year, the difference being that Britton figures to have a pretty decent potential rating, somewhere in the A/B range, whereas Hammel is what he is at this point in his career. Britton will be joined by Brian Matusz, who is regarded by many as a future ace, but who also put up a 10.00+ ERA in 12 starts last year. It’ll be interesting to see what that does to Matusz’s ratings when the game comes out. He’ll likely be one of the worst MLB starters (ratings-wise) early, but he’ll also likely have an A potential to make him worth holding on to. Tommy Hunter,who made his name in Texas, is also in this rotation. Apparently they have a thing for guys with ERA’s around 4.75, because Hammel, Britton, and Hunter all hovered close to that last year. Hunter’s only 25, but he’s cut his teeth in the majors for a few years now. I wouldn’t expect a ton of progression from him. Kevin Gregg, Jim Johnson, or Lindstrom will likely anchor the backend of your pen. None of them inspire confidence or hope for the future.

The Strategy: Rebuild around Wieters, Jones, Matusz, and maybe Britton depending on what his potential rating is. There’s a young core here that you can use to build for the future. You could also ship guys like Hardy, Markakis, and Reynolds out while they still have value, so you can rebuild that pitching staff.

The Conclusion: There isn’t a ton here to excite you, but there’s enough to intrigue you. A few young guys, plus a lot of filler. This is a pretty good team to start a rebuilding process with if you want to build a team from scratch, but as is this roster is non-descript and boring. Not to mention that you’ll always have Boston and New York in your division, which makes your job even harder as their virtual GM.

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Boston Red Sox

The Impact Veterans: Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez

The Young Guns: Not much, so I’m just going to list even more Impact Veterans: Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett

The Scouting Report: MLB 12: The Show is not concerned with last year’s collapse and the lingering effects of that. Means nothing to us when evaluating what a team might bring to your Franchise. They could come out angry this year and steamroll everyone, or there could be a hangover. Either way, it’s none of our concern. What’s here in the video games is a loaded roster. Jacoby Ellsbury patrolling center after an MVP caliber year, the kind of year that ensures he’ll be one of the absolute best rated players in the game this year. Adrian Gonzalez, this year’s cover man, could very well be an A contact/A power guy after his .338, 27 homers (down a little, but we know what he’s capable of) year last year. Kevin Youkilis had a pretty pedestrian year last year, but figures to still be pretty darn good based on past performance. Carl Crawford had a rough first year in Boston, but he still has his speed, and he still figures to be pretty good because, like Youkilis, he was really good in the past. Dustin Pedroia, MLB 09’s cover guy, hit .307 with 21 homers last year, meaning he’ll be one of the best rated second baseman in the entire game. Pedroia and Ellsbury also figure to have pretty decent potential ratings yet, so they’ll only get better for you down the line. David Ortiz is coming off a monster year and figures to be a sold B contact/A- power guy for you in the middle of that lineup. This is just a lineup that is built to mash right now, and lord knows that if you use Boston you will do just that.

The pitching staff is less exciting, but there’s still quite a few pieces there as well. Jon Lester put up another solid year last year, with his 3.47 ERA. At 28, Lester figures to still have a decent potential rating, so he may progress to be even better in future Franchise years. Clay Bucholz parlayed an electric 2010 into a pretty good 2011, a 2011 that was cut short by injury though, limiting him to only 14 starts. Still, Bucholz at 27 figures to be one of the better pitchers in the game, and a guy who will definitely get a high potential rating, definitely making him a valuable piece of this rotation. After a dismal 2010, Josh Beckett found his rhythm in 2011 and rebounded in a big way. A sub-3.00 ERA and a 13-7 record in 30 starts ensures that Beckett will be plenty good in this year’s edition of The Show. It will be interesting to see whether or not he’s rated higher than Lester and Bucholz when the game drops. He may be the ace of the staff for you if you choose the Sox. Of course, he’s got more age on him, so eventually he’ll transition to being your your #3 guy behind those two, but at 31 he’s not ancient. He’ll be around for awhile longer yet, even though it feels like he’s been around forever already. The much maligned John Lackey is still there. Lackey was awful last year. No way around that. A 6.00+ ERA will do that. I would anticipate him being a thoroughly average starter in this year’s edition of The Show. A guy that’s completely replaceable, with no upside for the future. You can go a number of places for a 5th starter, but none of them are places you want to be. Dice-K, Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, none of those inspire confidence. Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves are interesting options, if the Red Sox opt to use either of them as a starter, but with no past track record to look back on it’s hard to know how The Show would rate them in that role. Andrew Bailey was a solid closer in Oakland, and he’ll get the chance to fill the role vacated by Jonathan Papelbon this year. After posting sub-2.00 ERA’s in his first two years in Oakland, Bailey took a step back last year, but still saved 24 games for the A’s. He figures to be a guy who might be pretty good when the game ships, and he might have decent potential as well. Possibly a dominant closer in the making in The Show.

The Strategy: Win now. Nobody on this team is overly young. If you’re a draft-and-develop style GM, you’ll have quite a bit of work to do in the near future. Of course, you could just buy free agents to plug holes. That works too.

The Conclusion: You’ll be able to beat the living brains out of the ball with this team, which is always fun to do in a video game. A decent pitching staff backs that up, making the Red Sox a team to be reckoned with if you use them right in MLB 12: The Show.

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New York Yankees

The Impact Veterans: CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson

The Young Guns: Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova

The Scouting Report: Do you like hitting home runs? You do? Well, boy… do I have the team for you! Cano, Granderson, Mark Texeira, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, this lineup is built to hit the ball deep. Cano has become one of the best hitters in all of baseball, and figures to be one of the best players in this year’s edition of The Show. A .300 guy ensures an upper-tier contact rating, and 28 home runs ensures he’ll have plenty of power to boot. Curtis Granderson went nuclear last year, hitting 41 bombs. Combine that with a decent .262 average, some speed, and a heck of a glove, and you’ll have another guy who figures to be one of the best rated players in the game. Mark Texeira only hit .248 last year, but he jacked 39 homers. His past history will likely ensure him a perfectly okay contact rating, and he’ll have upper-tier power to boot. A-Rod had a very down year last year, only playing in 99 games, but he’ll likely still boast some really high ratings in all the key hitting categories. Nick Swisher and Russell Martin each contributed to the power surge as well, with 23 and 18 homers last year respectively. Derek Jeter’s still here. Though in a video game, I’m not totally sure what that does for you. All the intangibles that keep him revered in New York don’t really matter in a video game. Russell Branyan as a bench option really intrigues me. If you play him with any sort of regularity, I think it’d be tough not to hit 40 homers in that stadium with him. You might bat .150 in doing it, but you’ll definitely get production out of him. Brett Gardner brings his obscene speed to this lineup as well. Stealing 100 bases with him, if you want, probably won’t be all that hard.

Over on the pitching side, big CC Sabathia still anchors this staff. Just another 3.00 ERA, 19 win season for CC, who just keeps racking up seasons like this. He figures to be one of the highest rated pitchers in the game. Michael Pineda coming over from Seattle is an interesting move. He gives you a sure A potential young guy to build around for the future. There will come a time late in Sabathia’s career in your Franchise when he’ll be pitching behind Pineda. Expect Pineda to progress into a monster and to anchor your staff for the next decade or more. Ivan Nova came out of nowhere to win 16 games last year. He figures to be a solid pitcher in The Show with decent potential for the future. A nice guy to put next to Pineda in future rotations. AJ Burnett’s around. He figures to be a middling starter with no potential for the future in The Show, so do with him what you wish. Hiroki Kuroda also figures into your rotation. A 3.07 ERA guy, he’s a solid pitcher for the middle of that rotation who should have pretty decent ratings right out of the box. Mariano Rivera is still the closer in New York. How long the game allows you to keep him is anybody’s guess. He could retire after year one. Rafael Soriano is a perfectly adequate replacement, though, when that situation inevitably comes to pass.

The Strategy: Win now. You’re aging in a few spots (shortstop, third, and closer most notably), so win now and spend money to replace those aging spots. Innovative GM’s might ship out Jeter and A-Rod before the season even starts, in order to get something for them before they retire in the game on you. A-Rod could probably even bring a decent ransom for you yet, even though he’s at an advanced age.

The Conclusion: That bandbox of a stadium, combined with this lineup, means you’ll be playing 162 games of Home Run Derby. A pretty decent pitching staff compliments that, with a true future star in Michael Pineda to build around. Bash the ball, spend money, and build around Pineda and you’ll have plenty of fun with the Yankees this year.

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Tampa Bay Rays

The Impact Veterans: Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, James Shields

The Young Guns: Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Desmond Jennings

The Scouting Report: Remember how we discussed how the Red Sox collapse means nothing to us in video game land? The same thing applies here. The Rays run last year was scintillating, but none of that momentum that may carry over matters to us. What does matter is that this is an incredibly talented young roster bursting with current and future stars. Evan Longoria is the obvious place to start. At 26 he’s already established himself as one of the game’s best and despite a drop in batting average last year Longoria figures to have a good contact rating due to past performance, to go with a high power rating that should be somewhere in the B+ range. Pair that with his A potential, and you have a guy who you can build around that might just become the best player in the entire game a few years down the line in your Franchise. The rest of the lineup isn’t all that exciting, but there’s some solid pieces there. Ben Zobrist had a nice year last year, hitting .269 with 20 homers. He figures to be one of the better hitting second basemen in The Show, and hitting is all we really care about in a video game. BJ Upton will bring you a lower contact rating, somewhere in the C’s, but he’ll also hit some home runs for you and play pretty decent defense. At 27, he’s still young, and he was once thought to be among the best prospects in baseball. It will be interesting to see after a few years of serviceable but below-expectations play what kind of potential rating  The Show drops on him. If I had to guess, it’ll be somewhere in the B’s, which is still pretty decent. It’s unclear how Desmond Jennings fits into this outfield, but he might bring an A-/A potential with him, so finding room for him is ideal. He’s 25, it’s time to give him something to do in the majors, rather than allowing him to toil in the minors on you. Carlos Pena returns to Tampa Bay and he’s likely to do what Carlos Pena does, hit a lot of homers and strike out a ton. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s harder to strike out in video games, so anybody with decent, wait for it, stick skills might be able to pull a .250/40 homer season out of him. Sam Fuld’s flashy defense is fun as heck to watch, but I’m not sure how much it matters in a video game.

In two or three years, I’ll put this rotation up against anybody’s if they can keep James Shields around. Shields is a legitimate ace and figures to be maybe the best rated player on this team this year, Evan Longoria included. At 30, Shields has plenty left, but the young guns chasing him should push him down your rotation in a few years, which speaks to just how good this staff will be. David Price has been much hyped throughout his entire career, and he has not disappointed in the last two years. Following a sub-3.00 ERA year with a 3.49 is a bit of a step back, but 3.49 is still darn good. Price can be dominant for you, and at 26 with A potential he’ll surely evolve into one of the games best. Also figuring to evolve into one of the game’s best is Matt Moore. He only made one regular season and one postseason start last year, but he showed just how good he was from the start, allowing just two hits over seven innings to a loaded Texas Rangers lineup in his first career postseason start. Moore is only 22, he’ll likely start out rated above average already, and his A potential will ensure that he’ll progress to the game’s elite. Also electric last year was Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson started 29 games for Tampa, and he posted a 2.95 ERA while going 13-10, and he’s just 24 years old. Another sure A potential guy, another guy who could progress to the game’s elite. It’s conceivable, if you can keep all these guys with the Rays budget, that you could have 4 of the top 10 to 15 pitchers in the game starting in your rotation in two or three years in your Franchise. That’s unbelievable. The backend sees Kyle Farnsworth closing, which is something you’ll probably want to address, despite the fact that he was actually pretty good last year.

The Strategy: Win now, win in the future, build a dynasty. If you can keep Longoria and these four pitchers around, you can win several World Series rings with this team.

The Conclusion: The Rays might be the best balance of pieces to win now and exciting young players in MLB. If you’re looking to just dominate for the next decade, this might be your team.

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Toronto Blue Jays

The Impact Veterans: Jose Bautista, Ricky Romero

The Young Guns: Brett Lawrie, Kyle Drabek, Colby Rasmus

The Scouting Report: Obviously the big appeal here is Canadian cover guy Jose Bautista. He’ll boast A power, he’ll boast B/B+ contact, he’s a beast. There’s really no other way of putting it. If you’re at all good at this game, you’ll probably hit 50 homers with him easily. Maybe more. He’ll be joined by Brett Lawrie, who came over from the Milwaukee system last year in the Shaun Marcum deal and immediately set the world on fire. Long thought to be one of baseball’s best prospects, Lawrie made an immediate impact by hitting .293 with 9 homers in just 43 games. At only 22, Lawrie is bursting with potential, and should progress into the kind of monster bat that Bautista deserves around him in this lineup. It’s not inconceivable that in two or three years of your Franchise that Lawrie and Bautista might be the best one-two punch in the majors. Colby Rasmus is a highly touted guy that came over after a couple solid years with St. Louis. Rasmus is still young, still has quite a bit of potential, and should progress to be an above-average guy at the MLB level for you. That’s about it for sizzle in the Blue Jays lineup, unless you really like Kelly Johnson. Yunel Escobar hit .290 last year with 11 homers, so he should be pretty solid. Edwin Encarnacion hit 17 homers, so he’s got a bit of pop. But the reason you’re here is Bautista and Lawrie. Build around them, everyone else except maybe Rasmus is disposable.

The pitching staff features 27 year old Ricky Romero, who had a wonderful year last year. A 15-11 record with a 2.92 ERA made him by far the ace of this Blue Jays staff. At 27, Romero is still pretty young, so he should have decent potential, maybe as high as B+/A-, and you’ll be able to build around him for years to come. Brandon Morrow’s here for awhile now, after signing an extension. He’s serviceable, but not spectacular and should only really ever be the average guy that he is right now for you at the MLB level. The real intriguing guy here is Kyle Drabek. The centerpiece of the deal that sent Roy Halladay to Philly, Drabek should still come with a high potential, maybe even an A, despite posting a 6.00+ ERA in 14 starts last year. If Drabek is at all good out of the box, he should progress into a frontline guy that you can pair with Romero in a couple years to form a pretty dominant 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. Francisco Cordero will close for the Jays. He’s been a reliable guy for years in Cincinnati. A solid guy you can count on, but not a superstar by any means, Cordero should provide you decent stability at the backend of your bullpen.

The Strategy: Build around Bautista and Lawrie. Use those two as the anchor of what you’re doing, and then try to put some better pieces around them. On the pitching side, ride Romero as much as you can and hope Drabek becomes that number two guy that you can put next to him. You won’t win now in this division, but a shrewd GM could make a playoff push in a few years with the right pieces around the two stars in their lineup.

The Conclusion: The allure here is Jose Bautista. He makes this team fun immediately, and when Lawrie progresses he’ll make them extra fun to play as. Enjoy bashing homers with those two guys, just know that without solid moves around them you won’t ever compete in this division.

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