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 fourth division, the American League Central.
Part 1: National League East
Part 2: American League East
Part 3: National League Central
Chicago White Sox
The Impact Veterans: Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez, Adam Dunn
The Young Guns: Brent Morel, Gordon Beckham
The Scouting Report: This isn’t a bad roster, but it isn’t a terribly good one either. They finished 79-83 last year, and that seems about right to me. We begin with Paul Konerko, who has been a model of consistency for the White Sox for years now. Konerko had yet another outstanding year last year, hitting .300 with 31 homers in 149 games, and that figures to translate into some pretty impressive ratings. You always look for those guys who get a High B/Low A rating in both the contact areas and power, and Konerko could be one of those guys. He’s 35 though, so enjoy him while you can. He won’t stick around for too long in your franchise. Alexei Ramirez burst onto the scene in 2008 with a solid year, and while his production has tailed off a bit since then, he’s still a very solid hitting shortstop. .269 last year with 15 homers is nothing to sneeze at from a position where power hitters seem to be becoming increasingly rare. He’s 30, so he likely won’t get much better than he is now (which figures to be a C’s across the board type guy), but he’s solid and he’ll do enough in the game for you that you’ll like having him around. Adam Dunn is the true enigma here. Dunn hit an astonishingly low .159 last year with 11 homers. If he wasn’t Adam Dunn, he wouldn’t have played in 122 games with those numbers. But he is Adam Dunn, and Adam Dunn has a productive history. Look for the ratings team for The Show to take Dunn’s ratings down a bit, but not dramatically so. I believe they’ll see this more as an aberration and less as the beginning of a trend. I still expect Dunn to boast a B+/A- type rating in the power department, you just might have to deal with a D for contact. It would be possible for players to get a .245/40 homer season out of the guy and while that average isn’t great that’s quite a bit of production. Gordon Beckham patrols second. The Sox are still waiting for the 25 year old to completely put it together, but he’s been around for 3 years now. This might just be who he is. Beckham hit .230 with 10 homers last year, which doesn’t translate to great ratings in either category (C for contact, D for power, maybe), but at 25 he could still have some potential on him. Don’t expect anything too insane, but a B potential could grow him into a .260/20 homer guy, which would be pretty solid compared to what he is now. 24 year old Brent Morel patrolled third for the Sox last year, and put up a decent if unspectacular season in his full-season debut year. .245 and 10 homers isn’t great, but it’s something to build off of. He should have decent potential and could progress into a pretty good player.
The pitching staff lost Mark Buerhle to Miami, and that hurts quite a bit. What’s left is a bunch of “okay” guys who will eat innings for you but won’t post any noteworthy numbers. Philip Humber is probably the best of them. Humber had toiled around with the Mets, Twins, and Royals before landing in Chicago. The 29 year old put up a 3.75 ERA in 26 starts in his first real shot in the majors, which should give him halfway decent ratings in The Show. He is 29 though, so he probably won’t ever become anything more than a solid #2 on most teams. Here he’s in contention for the ace spot, and that’s a problem. John Danks saw his ERA get into the 4’s for the first time since his rookie season last year. Danks is still only 26 and has a positive track record, though, so he could still be pretty darn good. And perhaps more importantly, he has the potential to become better than he is now, as at 26 he still should be somewhere in the B range. Look for Danks to become your unquestioned ace in a year or two. Gavin Floyd’s still around, and still posting 4+ ERAs. At 29, he is what he is. Jake Peavy is probably the most interesting guy here. He was one of the best pitchers in the league back when he was with San Diego, but he’s been thoroughly average since coming to Chicago. Peavy might still get by on past rep and be a little better than he’s supposed to be given his recent trend, but considering his near 5 ERA and his age of 30, I’m not so sure there’s any hope for him in your franchise.
The Strategy: Win later. Konerko’s good, Dunn’s got some pop, but there isn’t a ton here. Konerko’s age also brings in the possibility of just going firesale and rebuilding from the ground up. Either way, this team isn’t really built to contend very soon.
The Conclusion: The White Sox just aren’t a very intriguing team. They’re full of average players (besides Konerko), and there really isn’t anything interesting or noteworthy about them. I’d imagine the only people that will pick them for their franchise are their fans, so good luck to you guys on that.
The Impact Veterans: Asdrubal Cabrera, Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson
The Young Guns: Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana
The Scouting Report: The Indians came screaming out of the gate last year and actually led the AL Central for a good long while in a year where they weren’t expected to contend. A collapse (or one could probably argue regression to where they were supposed to be) in the second half had Cleveland winding up at 80-82 for the year. The big standout for Cleveland last year was Asdrubal Cabrera, who was an absolute wizard in the field and was darn good at the plate as well. Cabrera jacked a career-high 25 homers, despite never topping 6 in his career before that, and hit .273 (which is lower than his norm, but still pretty good [and plenty acceptable because of the increase in power numbers]). Cabrera’s only 26 and already asserted himself as one of baseball’s best shortstops last year. Expect a serviceable contact rating to go with above average power and a likely A for fielding. His potential rating should be somewhere in the B/B+ range as well, meaning he’ll only get better from here. A true burgeoning star at short, which is a position that doesn’t seem to have a ton of stars anymore. Cabrera will be joined by 24 year old September call-up Jason Kipnis. Kipnis is one of the top prospects in baseball, and he proved it last year hitting .272 with 7 homers in 36 games at the big league level last year. Kipnis should come loaded with pretty good core ratings right out of the box, and his sure A potential means that he will be a star for you for the next decade. Not many teams boast a middle of the infield that’s this promising and could potentially be this dominant. Matt LaPorta, the center of the CC Sabathia-to-Milwaukee deal many moons ago, is toiling over at first still trying to figure it out. A career .238 hitter with just 20 big league homers to his credit so far (11 last year), LaPorta’s starting to get into that “prospects that were really good, then didn’t pan out” territory. He’s 27, he won’t carry an A potential anymore, and his ratings won’t be that good out of the box. LaPorta might be a guy you look to replace after giving him this year in your franchise to see if he can figure it out. When he’s not busy gettin’ down with the DVX, Carlos Santana is catching for the Indians, and the 25 year old is a darn good one at that. Just .239 last year, but 27 homers to go with it makes that low average tolerable. Santana figures to be a good power bat for you with great potential. He could become one of the best hitting catchers in The Show in a couple years time. Grady Sizemore’s still here. He’s a far cry from the guy he was in 2008, and he might actually be someone you should look to replace at this point. He doesn’t stay healthy, and his recent history indicates he’s not deserving of the kind of ratings you might expect him to get.
This is a pretty darn good pitching staff, and one that should carry you to some success early. Justin Masterson was fantastic last year for Cleveland, posting a 3.21 ERA in a team leading 33 starts last year. Masterson is still only 26, too. He should come out of the box as one of the better pitchers in the game, and he could still hold an A-/A potential, which makes him incredibly valuable. This is a dominant guy already, he could become unreal in a couple years in your franchise. Ubaldo Jimenez came over from Colorado last year and wasn’t great. A combined 4.68 ERA between leagues last year after a 2.88 for Colorado in 2010. Expect Jimenez to live off that 2010 this year, and the fact that he may not have been completely healthy in 2011, and get some pretty darn good ratings. He’ll be one of the better #2’s in the game and at 28 is a nice guy to pair with Masterson for years to come if you can. The rest of the staff inspires less confidence. Josh Tomlin was okay last year, posting a 4.25 ERA. He won’t be anything special out of the box, and he won’t become anything special. Carlos Carrasco posted a 4.62 ERA in 21 starts last year. Not great, but he’s only 24. He has the potential to improve and likely will. He could become a real solid #3 guy for you behind Masterson and Jimenez. Derek Lowe is here now, but so is his 5.05 ERA. Braves fans were happy to be rid of him, we’ll see if he can turn it around in Cleveland. He should be solidly rated, a nice guy to put at the 3 spot behind Masterson and Jimenez. I wouldn’t expect to dominate with him, though. Fausto Carmona doesn’t exist, and I don’t know if he’ll exist on the Indians opening day roster either. Doesn’t matter anyways, he’s not very good. Chris Perez quietly saved 36 games last year with a 3.32 ERA. Slightly above average, and he’s only 26 so he could catch a decent potential rating.
The Strategy: Win soon. Not now, but soon. Savvy GMs will acquire an extra piece for the offense so that Cabrera, Kipnis, and Santana don’t have to carry it. The pitching’s definitely there, it’s just a question of if you’ll be able to score enough.
The Conclusion: An exciting young team with a bright future, Cleveland is definitely an intriguing team if you want to go their direction for your franchise.
The Impact Veterans: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander
The Young Guns: Austin Jackson
The Scouting Report: There is not a better one-two punch in baseball than the one this lineup boasts. We’ll start with the incumbent Cabrera, who hit .344 with 30 homers and 115 RBI last year. That’s sure A contact, possibly A power. And he’s 28, so possible A potential as well. Cabrera will be among the best players in the entire game right from the start, and he still has probably 7 prime years left. He’ll butcher third in the field, but it’s video games, we don’t really care about that. Prince Fielder comes over from Milwaukee after his own MVP caliber year, a year in which he hit .299 with 38 homers and 120 RBI. Oh, and he’s only 27 and under team control for the next 9 years. With progression, you’re looking at a potential combo that could consistently hit .340/.300 with 80 homers and 250 RBI every year. That is astronomical production from two players. You could even turn pre-existing injuries off and throw Victor Martinez’s .330, 12 homer, 103 RBI season into the mix if you want. This lineup will beat the ball senseless despite the fact that they play in Comerica’s cavernous outfields. Elsewhere, Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch are solid average guys with decent power. They’re good compliment bats for Fielder and Cabrera. Boesch is only 26 and could progress a bit, Raburn’s 30 and likely is what he is at this point. Magglio Ordonez is still a name, but he’s not a good player anymore. He’s 38, his eye at the plate is gone, and so is his power. Austin Jackson is patrolling center and is a defensive highlight reel. That means less to us in video game land, but his speed should still make him a blast to play as. Also, he’s only 25, so he’ll have a good potential rating on him which could progress him above being the serviceable hitter that he is now.
The AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander anchors a darn good pitching staff. Verlander will be the best pitcher in the game when you boot it up on March 6th. I don’t really think there’s a debate to be had there. Maybe Roy Halliday, but I doubt it. Verlander went 24-5 last year with a 2.40 ERA, an unbelievable year from a guy who’s been consistently dominant since 2006. He’s 28, he’s already the best in the game, and his probable high potential rating makes sure he’ll stay that way for years to come. Behind Verlander in the staff is Max Scherzer. Scherzer regressed a bit from a stellar 2010, but he has dominant stuff and figures to be a highly rated guy out of the box. He’ll probably start as a high-end #2 guy and progress into a true ace (he’s only 27) to pair with Verlander and dominate with for years to come. Rick Porcello’s only 23, but he’s still trying to regain the magic he had in his 2009 debut year. A 4.75 ERA will ensure that he’ll only be average coming out of the box, but his age throws his potential rating into question. He’s been around for three years, his career low ERA is 3.96, is this a guy that gets that A potential? I doubt it. I bet he’s a B/B+ guy, which is still pretty good. He’ll be a solid guy to have behind Verlander and Scherzer for years, though, and he’ll be a pretty darn good pitcher in the future. Doug Fister burst onto the scene last year and had an absolutely stellar year, posting a 2.83 ERA in 31 starts. Fister toiled in Seattle for awhile before being dealt to Detroit last year, where he posted a 1.79 ERA in 10 regular season starts as a Tiger. He’s 28, he might be a high-end #2 out of the box, the future is very bright for Fister in what’s a loaded rotation. Jose Valverde closed 49 games last year with a 2.21 ERA and will be one of the best closers in The Show.
The Strategy: WIN. Now, in the future, this team is loaded and nobody’s in their 30’s. You could go dynasty with the Tigers, they’re that good.
The Conclusion: One of the most explosive lineups in the game combines with one of the game’s best staffs to form a team that could dominate for the next decade. If you just want to win right off the top, definitely consider Detroit.
Kansas City Royals
The Impact Veterans: Alex Gordon, Bruce Chen, Yuniesky Betancourt (a negative impact is still an impact)
The Young Guns: Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Billy Butler, Jeremy Jeffress
The Scouting Report: Alex Gordon finally figured it out last year, and he exploded into prominence with the kind of dominant season that Royals fans hope is the marker of a future superstar. Gordon hit .303 with 23 homers last year in 151 games. His past failings make him one of the more interesting guys to rate in The Show, though. He hit .303, which would indicate a high (B+ish) contact rating, but he hit just .215 in 2010 and .232 in 2009 (granted in only 74 games in 2010 and 49 in 2009), so which guy is he? The guess here is that the ratings team errs on the side of him having finally figured it out last year and rewards him with the kind of ratings his 2011 deserve. Expect a B’s across the board guy with his power, contact, and potential all likely falling in that area. He’ll progress a bit, but I doubt he’ll ever become a whole lot better than he is right now, but that’s not a bad thing. He’s darn good as is. Elsewhere, 22 year old Eric Hosmer made his debut last year and played in 128 games. He hit .293 with 19 homers in those games, so he figures to come out of the box with decent contact, decent power, and an A for potential. Hosmer is the guy you should actually probably be building around, despite Gordon’s presence. He’ll likely progress into a superstar by year 3 or 4. If you can pair him with Gordon at that time, you have the makings of a fairly potent middle of the lineup. Mike Moustakas came up for 89 games last year and played decently. .263 with 5 homers and 30 RBI isn’t a bad half-season for a guy making his ML debut. Look for Moustakas to carry a high potential rating and progress into a solid everyday player at third for the Royals. Lorenzo Cain spent most of last year in the minors, but a scintillating 43 game stint with Milwaukee in 2010 suggests he could be a future star at the position. At 25, he’ll carry good potential. He might not be great out of the box, but he should progress into a higher-end everyday guy in center. Billy Butler hit .291 with 19 homers and 95 RBI out of the DH spot last year and figures to be pretty good out of the box. He’s only 25 as well, so a pretty darn good potential rating should accompany him. Butler could become a consistent .300/25/100 guy for you, which is great production to go with what Hosmer and Gordon will give you. The Dispatched Milwaukee Brewers Shortstops Club meets every day in Kansas City. Alcides Escobar is only 25, but refuses to hit at the ML level. He might carry decent potential, but I wouldn’t expect anything more than a sure fielding, light hitting shortstop. Yuniesky Betancourt’s better left undiscussed.
The pitching staff is far less promising than the lineup. Bruce Chen is kind of the de facto ace, by virtue of being the only above-average guy here. His 3.77 ERA should get him halfway decent ratings. He’s 34, so there won’t be any progressing, but for now he’s okay. Not the kind of guy that should be your ace, but he’s all they have. Luke Hochevar and Felipe Paulino both manage to be 28 year old guys who are completely uninteresting. Mid 4 ERA guys, probably C/B- potential. Nothing to see here. Totally replaceable. Restoration project Jonathan Broxton signed a deal in the offseason and will likely be the set-up guy. He’s been downright dominant at times, but not recently. He might live off past reputation and still get decent ratings, but it’s more likely that he’s an average rated guy with a ridiculous fastball rating. He’s only 27, but I wouldn’t bet any higher than a B- for potential. Jeremy Jeffress is an intriguing guy in the pen. Only 24, he’s got a monster of a fastball as well and may come with A potential. Joakim Soria’s the incumbent closer. A 4+ ERA, but he did save 28 games last year. He’s not great, but he’s probably good enough. And even if he doesn’t work out for you, Jeffress should be ready to be dominant in a year or two.
The Strategy: Rebuild the pitching, win soon. That lineup is ready to win now, but the pitching will need a year or two to catch up. GM wizardry will be require to fix a staff that has nothing at all of note in it, but the Royals could be a playoff contender for you if you can maybe acquire a pitcher or two throughout the season.
The Conclusion: Bursting with young talent, the Royals are a terrific choice for a GM looking to be challenged early, but rewarded down the line with a perennial contender.
The Impact Veterans: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Scott Baker
The Young Guns: Ben Revere, I guess. There’s nothing really here.
The Scouting Report: Remember when Joe Mauer was on the cover of The Show two years in a row? Remember when “Well played, Mauer” was part of our subconscious? Well, what Joe Mauer’s ratings say is critical to how good this Twins lineup is. Mauer’s regressed since his 2009 breakout year. In 82 games in an injury riddled 2011, Mauer hit .287 (down from .365 in 138 games in 2009) and hit only 3 homers, which using super advanced math we can project had him on pace for about 6 for the entirety of 2011 (down from 28 in 2009). My gut feeling is that the ratings team rewards Mauer for past performance and he still remains an elite player in The Show, which is good because they really need him. The only other feared bat here is the oft-injured Justin Morneau (Man, the Twins have the worst luck, don’t they?). Morneau hasn’t played more than half a season since 2009, and he wasn’t good in 2011 when he was there. .227 with 4 homers in 69 games. His blistering half-season in 2010 (.345, 18 homers) combined with his 2009 season (.274, 30 HR) suggests that 2011 was likely more of an aberration than the beginning of a trend. I expect Morneau to be a nearly elite player when you boot up MLB 12, and if you can keep him healthy him and Mauer will probably be a pretty solid duo. Elsewhere, both Denard Span and Ben Revere spent time patrolling center last year. Both are decent average, low power, high speed guys. Plus I get to link to this. Revere’s only 23, he could have decent potential, and could become a high average, high speed, great fielding guy for you to leadoff your lineup with. Alexei Casilla, Danny Valencia, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka don’t really merit much discussion. They’re just kind of there.
The pitching staff is fairly pedestrian outside of Scott Baker, who was really good last year. A 3.14 ERA in 21 starts last year ensures that Baker is clearly your ace. He’s 30, so you should have him at a high level for 4 or 5 more years. Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano continue to be enigmas. One year after his resurgence, Pavano regressed back to a 4+ ERA guy. He won’t have a ton of potential either. I forecast him being completely replaceable in The Show. Liriano also regressed off a good 2010 (3.62 ERA) to go back to 5+ ERA land. Every other year he’s really good, though, so maybe this is the year he re-re-re-breaks out for Twins fans. Nick Blackburn’s a mid 4’s ERA guy who will never be much more than a #3 for you. Brian Duensing turned into a 5+ ERA guy, which is surprising after two incredibly solid years before that. I wouldn’t expect him to be anything more than a mid-level #3 either. Matt Capps or Joel Zumaya will likely close. Either one’s a decent option, but doesn’t inspire excitement.
The Strategy: Use your GM wizarding to acquire an extra pitcher, then make your run now. The lineup’s probably good enough, and if you can get a good year out of Liriano you might be in the hunt, but an extra arm would really ensure that you could contend for a playoff spot right now.
The Conclusion: The Twins have an oft-injured core of stars, but if you can keep them healthy you might have a contender in the Central this year and for a few years to come.
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