MLB 12: The Show Franchise Mode Division Preview #5 – NL West

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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 fifth division, the National League West.

Part 1: National League East

Part 2: American League East

Part 3: National League Central

Part 4: American League Central

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Arizona Diamondbacks

The Impact Veterans: Ian Kennedy

The Young Guns: Justin Upton, Daniel Hudson, Paul Goldschmidt

The Scouting Report: The D’Backs came out of nowhere last year to win the NL West, and looking at their roster it seems like that was a heck of an accomplishment, because this isn’t a team loaded with stars or anything. That said, Justin Upton is a bonafide star and he proved it last year. A .289/31 HR year for a guy who right now is just 24 is unbelievable. To think he’s only going to get better from here should fill D’Backs fans with absolute joy. Upton in The Show will be an A potential, and he should get a decent contact rating in the B’s to go with B+/A- power. I would anticipate him progressing into a A/A guy in a few years in your Franchise, so he’s definitely a guy you want to build around. The rest of the lineup is solid, but won’t really blow you away or anything. Paul Goldschmidt is an intriguing guy at first base. He hit .250 with 8 homers in 48 games and then absolutely torched the Brewers in the NLDS, so it will be interesting to see what his ratings are out of the box. He’s only 24, which probably bodes well for at least a B/B+ potential, and I would figure he’ll default to decent enough ratings in contact and power. Look for Goldschmidt to progress into a well above-average guy for you at first for many years to come. Elsewhere, the D’Backs swapped Kelly Johnson for Aaron Hill last year, in what is a pretty lateral move. Both are low-contact, decent power guys. Nothing to write home about, nor to get excited about. C’s across the board for Hill, probably. Ryan Roberts is over at third, and when he’s not impersonating his manager he’s a pretty decent player. .249 with 19 homers last year for Roberts, he’ll probably get a C-/Cish grade for contact to go with a C+/B- for power. Pretty good, not great, replaceable if you can. He’s 31, too, so I wouldn’t bank on potential. Chris Young patrols center and continues our “low contact/decent power” theme, as he hit .236 last year with 20 homers. At 28, he might have a tiny bit of potential left on him, but not a lot. Likely a C-/B- guy for pretty much the remainder of his career.

Ian Kennedy made a strong push at a Cy Young last year, and would’ve won it in a lot of other years. Kennedy posted a 21-4 record with a 2.88 ERA. At 27, Kennedy will be a fantastic pitcher now, and should have enough potential to get even better down the road. If Upton’s the guy you’re building around on offense, this is the guy you’re building around on this pitching staff. No question about it. Kennedy is joined by Daniel Hudson who had a pretty great year himself last year. Hudson had a 3.49 ERA in 33 starts last year and is now just 24 years old, which probably assures him A potential. Kennedy and Hudson are a formidable duo to put at the front of your rotation and potential GM’s will ride that duo to success for years to come. Joe Saunders is here as well, and he had a solid season last year too. A 3.69 ERA in 33 starts is nothing to sneeze at, though it does make him the undoubted third starter on this team. Saunders is a solid high-end #3, but at 30 he shouldn’t progress above that. And if you keep him around in Arizona, he’ll never come close to getting past Kennedy or Hudson in your rotation. Josh Collmenter started 24 games last year and posted a 3.38 ERA out of nowhere. He’s 26, he’s arguably your third guy right now, but he’s another guy that you can put with Kennedy and Hudson and really rely on for the future of your team. Probably a B potential guy, but that should progress him to someone who would be a #2 on a lot of teams. JJ Putz had a resurgence in the closer’s role last year, posting 45 saves with a 2.15 ERA. Putz is 35, though, so you might get a couple great years out of him, but it also might be time to start grooming a replacement.

The Strategy: Win now, probably. This roster isn’t particularly attractive, but there’s probably enough here to win the NL West. As far as winning a World Series, I would think you’ll need some more offensive pieces to put around Upton if you want to get to that next level. Consider dealing Saunders for a bat, you have more than enough pitching even without him.

The Conclusion: Not the flashiest of rosters, but a dominant pitching staff makes the D’Backs a pretty decent team to choose in The Show.

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Colorado Rockies

The Impact Veterans: Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton, Carlos Gonzalez

The Young Guns: Jhoulys Chacin, Drew Pomeranz

The Scouting Report: This could be one of the more underrated offensive rosters in baseball, and because of that if The Show rates these guys as their numbers would indicate this is a strong sleeper team to look at. It all starts with Troy Tulowitzki, who continues to be probably the best hitting shortstop in baseball (Your comments on this are welcome, I know I’m forgetting some candidates). Tulo put up a .302 season with 30 homers in 2011, and at 27 he’s just coming into his prime. Look for an A potential, B+/A- contact, and B+/A- power. That combination makes him likely the most valuable shortstop in The Show. Lest you think Tulo is the only offense in Colorado, Carlos Gonzalez is here as well. CarGo hit .295 with 26 homers in only 127 games last year. An unbelievable year for the 26 year old, and one that assures him high ratings at all the important measurables. Likely an A potential, as well. Few teams have a young combo like Tulo and CarGo to build around like this. It’s a true luxury. And the weapons don’t stop there. Old Man River Todd Helton is still around, and still producing. .302 with 12 homers last year, Helton figures as a high average guy that you can use to get on base in front of Tulo and CarGo. He’s ancient (38) as I mentioned, so enjoy him while you can, but for now he’s a solid hitter who’s valuable in front of your two superstars. Dexter Fowler’s a lot of fun, as speed kills in real life and in The Show. He doesn’t provide a whole lot besides that speed, but it’s enough to make him intriguing. You could probably swipe 100 bags with him if you really gave it an honest shot, he’s that fast. And bunting for hits seems to work more in The Show than it does in real life. I’d suggest trying it at least once a game with him.

Pitching is where this roster gets flawed. Ubaldo Jimenez is gone, and 24 year old Jhoulys Chacin is pretty much the default ace right now. Chacin was solid last year, posting a 3.62 ERA in 31 starts, and his age figures to give him really good potential. He might not be a legit ace by default, but he figures to progress into one. Jeremy Guthrie comes over from Baltimore in a trade this offseason, and he’s… whatever. A 4.33 ERA guy who’ll eat innings for you, I suppose. Not a terrible option, not even a bad option, just nothing that makes you super excited. Drew Pomeranz is the guy to watch here. A 23 year old who’s one of baseball’s top prospects, Pomeranz is a sure A potential guy who could progress to be an elite ace for your staff to pair with Chacin. I would imagine that Rafael Betancourt will be your closer, which is a decent option, but nothing to get all that excited about. He’s 36, he’ll be a stopgap until you find someone else.

The Strategy: Win next year. Take 2011 to bring Pomeranz and Chacin along, maybe acquire a new pitcher to go with them, and then next year you’ll be in position to have a dominant rotation to go with a dominant lineup.

The Conclusion: An exciting young offense pairs with a fairly okay pitching staff to make one of the more intriguing darkhorses in The Show.

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Los Angeles Dodgers

The Impact Veterans: Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly

The Young Guns: Clayton Kershaw, Dee Gordon

The Scouting Report: It’s rough to be a Dodgers fan these days. With an ownership situation that’s… odd, and the fact that the team wasn’t very good last year, there isn’t a ton to make a fan happy. But when you’re a virtual GM, looking for a team to rebuild quickly, you might quite like what the Dodgers have to offer you. It starts with Matt Kemp, who had a monster MVP-type season last year. A .324 year with 39 homers and 126 RBI made him one of baseball’s absolute best players last season. Kemp is 27, and could be a AAA guy, in that he has an A for contact, A for power, and A for potential. I wouldn’t count on that actually happening, but it could. You’re always looking for something to build around when you’re in the market for rebuilding a team, and Kemp is it on offense. He’s great now, he’ll be great for the next decade. Elsewhere in the Dodgers’ lineup is a whole bunch of whatever. Andre Ethier is probably the next most exciting guy. Ethier had a monster 2009, then a still pretty darn good 2010, and most recently a fairly pedestrian 2011. 2011 saw Ethier hit .292 with 11 homers in 135 games, which is… good, I guess. The problem is that we know he’s capable of more, so while that line isn’t all that bad, it’s not what we know he can do. Figure Ethier to be a guy that gets ratings in The Show that are probably better than his 2011 deserves based off of recognition and past seasons. He could be a decent contact/good power guy for you. A pretty good option to pair with Kemp. Ethier’s 29 and might get a little better, but not much. Look for a C+/B- potential rating. James Loney’s another option. He pretty much cloned Ethier’s 2011 but figures to be an inferior option based on past history. Loney’s 27, so he’s two years younger than Ethier which helps, but I doubt it helps much. Look for Loney to be a good contact/borderline poor power guy with average potential. Dee Gordon figures into the shortstop mix. He’s only 23 and hit .302 in his time in the majors last year, so he figures to be a guy with solid potential going forward who could morph into a nice leadoff hitter.

Clayton Kershaw is really good. He’s also only 23.  It’s not really fair that someone can be this good this young. A 2.28 ERA for Kershaw in 33 starts last year won him a Cy Young, and he only figures to get better. Kershaw is a bonafide ace, he’ll be one of the highest rated pitchers in MLB 12, and he’ll come with an A potential. He’s a superstar, and he’s a guy who can anchor this staff for the next 12 years if you can keep him around. Chad Billingsley had a down year last year, posting a career high ERA of 4.21, but he’s still a solid dependable guy that you can count on to put behind Kershaw. He should be a high-end number two starter for you, and at 27 he could progress into a guy that can also be a force in the front of that rotation. Ted Lilly’s 36, but he’s coming off a solid 2011 which saw him post a 3.96 ERA. Obviously he won’t progress, but he’ll be a really good option at the #3 or #4 for the first year or two of your franchise. Probably a guy you should look into having a replacement plan for, though. Aaron Harang also had a nice 2011, posting a 3.64 ERA in 28 starts. Harang is 33, so he is who he is, but that’s not a bad thing since he’s pretty good. Harang and Lilly form a solid middle of the rotation for the Dodgers. Chris Capuano’s here too, but I don’t care about him as much as you don’t care to read about him. Javy Guerra does the closing, and he’s pretty good even if you’ve never heard of him. 21 saves, a 2.31 ERA, and only 26. Definitely a guy that could become an asset.

The Strategy: Win later. You’re fortunate enough to have two of the best players in MLB, and one of them’s only 23 (not to mention the other one’s 27, which isn’t that old), but there isn’t a ton around them. There’s more depth to the pitching staff than there is the offense, but both could use some work.

The Conclusion: The Dodgers offer an exciting blend of being able to use two of the top probably five players in The Show with a challenge for a GM looking to rebuild. Not a bad team to franchise with.

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San Diego Padres

The Impact Veterans: Huston Street, Tim Stauffer

The Young Guns: Yonder Alonso, Andrew Cashner

The Scouting Report: Bleak. That’s what the scouting report for the Padres is. There is nothing here. Adrian Gonzalez is long gone, Ryan Ludwick isn’t even here anymore, this is a god awful offense. Yonder Alonso is the logical starting point, I guess. .330 with 5 homers in 47 games last year and he’s only 24. All of this points to a potential future star. Possible A potential, solid contact rating, maybe a little bit of pop. Alonso figures to be most of your offense. I honestly don’t even know where to go after discussing Alonso. Chase Headley’s here, he’s also coming off a .289 4 HR season, so… is he anything more than completely replaceable? Not really. Orlando Hudson hit .246 with 7 homers last year and he’s 34. Not much of anything to discuss there. Nick Hundley’s a potential bright spot. He’s 28, so he’s in his prime, and he hit .288 with 9 homers in 82 games last year. If he can hit for that average for an entire season and keep that power up, he could be fairly valuable. A .285 18 homer guy would be nothing to sneeze at. I just don’t know if Hundley’s ratings will allow it, or if you’ll be able to progress him to that point. Will Venable and his .246 average with 9 homers is here as well. You may wish he wasn’t, but he is. There is just nothing here, and I can’t emphasize that enough.

The pitching is definitely better than the offense (not that much of an accomplishment). Dustin Mosely or Tim Stauffer, depending on which one you prefer, will likely anchor this staff. We’ll begin with Mosely, who amazingly managed to go 3-10 last year despite just a 3.30 ERA in 20 starts. I’ve done enough bashing of the Padres’ offense, no need to continue it in the pitching paragraph. Mosely’s 30, so he still has 5 prime-ish years left, and could be a solid guy for you for the entirety of those years. Probably a low-end #1 guy, but not a terrible option. It could be worse. Stauffer is the other guy in this rotation. He posted a 3.73 ERA in 31 starts last year and is 29 years old, so he’s probably a pretty good #2 guy right out of the box. He could progress a bit and become a higher-end #2, and being able to pair him with Mosely gives you a solid front end of the rotation, even if it strikes fear into nobody. Clayton Richard is also a very solid pitcher. 3.88 in 18 starts last year, he’s 28, and gives you another reliable arm. Andrew Cashner figures in as the young wildcard. He’s 25 and was absolutely dominant in 10.2 innings (with one start) in the majors last year, posting a 1.69 ERA. Cashner will probably be an A-ish potential guy, so he could grow into the dominant true ace that this staff lacks, despite it’s plethora of solid yet unspectacular arms. This isn’t a rotation that will blow you away by any means, but it’s not bad. Well, Edinson Volquez is pretty bad, but he didn’t used to be so maybe he’ll bounce back.

The Strategy: Make a deal with the devil to win now. Failing that, win later. Probably much later. The lineup is depleted as heck. You won’t score a lot with this team. Luckily the pitching isn’t bad, so there’s something to be kind of happy about.

The Conclusion: Teams with this little amount of offense aren’t very much fun in a video game. I’d avoid them if I were you. But, if you must torture yourself, this is a total rebuild and recommended for experienced GM’s only.

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San Francisco Giants

The Impact Veterans: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson

The Young Guns: Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt

The Scouting Report: Pretty much the same story as it’s been in San Francisco for the last few years: Little offense, let the pitching carry the day. I can’t really argue with it, it won them the 2010 World Series, I’m just not sure how fun it makes them in MLB 12. Carlos Beltran came over at the deadline last year, and now he’s in St. Louis. He would be by far their best offensive threat, but he’s gone, so we move on. Pablo Sandoval had himself a very nice 2011, hitting .315 with 23 homers. The Panda is still only 25 and has shown enough prowess at the major league level to expect that he’ll have darn good ratings come March 6th. Likely a very good contact rating (B/B+) to go with a perfectly serviceable low-B power rating. And at 25 I wouldn’t be shocked to see him with B+/A- potential. If you’re going to build around a guy on this roster currently, the Panda seems like a good one to pick. Aubrey Huff is ancient (36) and had his worst season in years in 2011. Could just be a blip on the radar, or it could be time finally catching up to Huff. Either way, he won’t be anything more than average for ratings, and he’ll likely retire a year or two into your franchise so he isn’t a guy you can really count on either. Buster Posey is back from his horrific leg injury last year. We’ll see how he is after almost a whole year off, but I would imagine he’ll be rated almost identically to what he got in MLB 11. Expect Posey to be an above-average contact guy, serviceable power, and A potential. Definitely another good option to build around, if you so wish. Brandon Belt was up for awhile last year, and despite a large amount of hype it didn’t work out that well.  Regardless, he’s still only 23, he should still carry A potential, and he’s a valuable piece of the Giants future.

Where the Giants will make their hay, though, is on the pitcher’s mound. And we have to start with Tim Lincecum. Now 27, Lincecum put up a 2.74 ERA in 33 starts last year, posting yet another Cy Young caliber year (his record of 12-13 probably precluded him from actually contending for it). Lincecum is filthy, and his age of 27 means he’s just coming into his prime. Expect him to be one of the best pitchers in MLB 12, and expect him to keep progressing at that rate throughout your franchise. Often lost in the Lincecum spotlight, but almost as good, is Matt Cain. Cain is also 27, and he’s coming off a 2.88 ERA year, which means you’ll have two superstar legitimate aces at the front of this staff for the next, say, eight years. Not a luxury a lot of teams have. Even more under the radar than Cain was what Ryan Vogelsong did last year. How about a 2.71 ERA in 28 starts? Yeah, not bad. And unbelievable that this is your third starter. It speaks to how loaded this staff is that you have three guys who are legit aces on most other teams. Unlike Lincecum and Cain, though, Vogelsong is 34 and has only really been this good for one year. Expect him to get the kind of ratings that would make him an upper-tier #2 starter and because of his age he shouldn’t progress much above that. But having a guy that’s this good at your #3 is definitely still a luxury.  So we’ve established that the top three in this staff are ridiculously filthy, how about a fourth starter who had a 3.21 ERA in 33 starts last year? That’s what Madison Bumgarner is (Stop calling him MadBum, San Francisco fans. I beg of you.). And on top of that, Bumgarner is only 22 years old. Unbelievable. So you have Lincecum and Cain, who will be legit superstars for years to come, and here’s Madison Bumgarner who’s a two on most teams but your four here, and he’ll get an A potential and progress right into a superstar himself in a few years. Unreal. Barry Zito and Clay Hensley are here as well, but I’d rather not kill the vibe we have going. Brian Wilson and his beard will close, and he’ll obviously be one of the highest rated closers in MLB 12. And at 29, you’ll be able to keap Beardy around for a long while yet.

The Strategy: Win now. This pitching staff is unbelievably good and should carry you to a division crown or eight. Acquire a little more offense every year, eventually you’ll have a juggernaut.

The Conclusion: If pitching is your game, this might be your team. And they’ll hit enough to make batting somewhat enjoyable as well.

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A fan of one of these teams? Excited about the Giants pitching staff? A Padres fan who wants to yell at me? Talk about all that and more in our forum!

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