Feature Article
Choosing a Franchise Team for MLB 14 The Show: NL Central

Choosing which team to pick for your franchise in MLB: The Show can be a daunting task. Do you want to rebuild? What about picking a team loaded with cash, but little talent to show for it? What if you just want to pick a team with all of the tools at your disposal, and your only job is to win a World Series? The fact is, there is a variety of great teams to kick off your franchise with, but you only get to choose one. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we'll be going division by division and team by team to help you make your choice. Here's the NL Central:

Milwaukee Brewers

Depth Chart: The Brew Crew is built to blast, with a bunch of swing hard and let it rip kind of players. It helps that Ryan Braun is back from suspension, but even without him, Segura, Gomez, Ramirez, and Lucroy make for an imposing lineup. The addition of Matt Garza helps stabilize an otherwise shaky rotation.

Pitchers: Gallardo, Garza, Lohse, Estrada, Peralta B-
Bullpen: Rodriguez, Duke, Smith, Thornburg C
Infield: Reynolds, Lucroy, Segura, Gennett, Ramirez B
Outfield: Davis, Gomez, Braun B+

Farm System: While the potential to trade Braun would have restocked an otherwise shallow farm system, there are a few players who could help them in the distant future. Jimmy Nelson is their lone impact player sitting at the top of their farm.

Keep An Eye On: Nelson (SP), Taylor (OF), Arcia (SS) C-

Ballpark: Miller Park is one of the best new age parks in all of baseball, offering a variety of cool structures and a big slide right in the outfield. What's not to like? Though, most pitchers will agree that it isn't their favorite park. B+

Summary: There's no real direction for the Brewers to go but to fight for a playoff spot, and hope that a few games fall their way. The potential of trading Braun, Ramirez, or Gomez provides some interesting ways you could take their franchise.

St. Louis Cardinals

Depth Chart: Is there a better team in baseball? If so, you would have a hard time finding it. The Cardinals have made a living off of roster depth and being able to let go of aging and high-priced superstars. Whether its been through the draft, through free agency, or via trade, the Cardinals always seem to find the hidden gems of baseball.

Pitchers: Miller, Garcia, Wainwright, Lynn, Wacha A
Bullpen: Rosenthal, Motte, Martinez, Choate A-
Infield: Molina, Adams, Wong, Peralta, Carpenter B
Outfield: Holiday, Bourjos, Craig B
Bench: Cruz, Ellis, Jay, Descalso C

Farm System: It only gets worse for the rest of the NL Central when you realize that the Cardinals easily have a top five minor league system, chalk full with guys waiting in the wings.

Keep An Eye On: Reyes (SP), Tavares (OF), Piscotty (OF) A

Ballpark: Busch stadium, much like Dodger stadium, is perfect for those who love a traditional ballpark. Nothing fancy, and nothing too unique that will make it stand out. C+

Summary: The Cardinals are in a position to win now, and win later. As long as you don't mind having a mid-range bankroll for free-agency, you can't go wrong with the Cardinals.

Chicago Cubs

Depth Chart: The Cubs are not very good. That doesn't mean there isn't a whole lot of reasoning behind choosing them for your franchise, however. They have a roster loaded with young talent, and it seems to be only a matter of time before you have a breakthrough season. Guys like Rizzo, Castro, and Samardzija are potential long term all-stars for the unluckiest organization in baseball.

Pitchers: Samardzija, Wood, Jackson, Hamel, Arrieta C
Bullpen: Strop, Rondon, Wright, Russell D+
Infield: Castillo, Rizzo, Barney, Castro, Olt B-
Outfield: Lake, Bonifacio, Schierholtz C-
Bench: Kalish, Valbuena, Baker D

Farm System: There's good news, Cub fans: your team has a really strong farm system. You won't have to wait long before the likes of Baez, Bryant, Soler, and CJ Edwards are up helping the Cubs become relevant again. Most of the talent is right at the top of the farm system, too. So there's less variance in terms of what kind of success they will have in the future.

Keep An Eye On: Baez (SS), Soler (OF), Edwards (SP) A-

Ballpark: Wrigley Field might be the most well done stadium in MLB: The Show, outside of Fenway Park. Whether its the ivey on the outfield wall, or the ridiculous winds, playing in Wrigley is always a pleasure, no matter the team's record. A

Summary: Ready to rebuild, without having to do much to get there? The Cubs are probably your team.

Pittsburg Pirates

Depth Chart: The Pirates are an interesting team. They have a ton of players who had breakout years at the very same time, but most of them still struggle with consistency. The talent is certainly there for a playoff run, but it will be hard to beat out the Cardinals with such an inconsistent pitching staff. There's young talent there for the future in Marte and Polanco, but what happens when McCutchen's contract is up?

Pitchers: Liriano, Cole, Morton, Volquez, Locke C+
Bullpen: Grilli, Melancon, Watson, Wilson B+
Infield: Martin, Davis, Walker, Mercer, Alvarez B-
Outfield: Marte, Tabata, McCutchen B+
Bench: Sanchez, Stewart, Barmes, Snider B-

Farm System: There's one name that you absolutely need to know if you are going to take over the Pirates for your franchise: Gregory Polanco. Probably MLB ready right now, Polanco is a future all-star who is killing it in the minors again this year. He's backed up by several other solid options, helping the Pirates fit in with a strong NL Central of farm systems.

Keep An Eye On: Polanco (OF), Tallion (SP), Hanson (SS) B+

Ballpark: Many have anointed PNC Ballpark as the nicest park in all of baseball, and they aren't wrong. While it doesn't have the history of a Fenway or a Wrigley, playing right along the Allegheny River is really something special. A-

Summary: The Pirates are certainly a strong team to start your franchise with, though, you'll feel blocked from the playoffs form the always strong Cardinals. And, there's definitely reason to worry about the Cubs and Brewers in the near future.

Cincinnati Reds

Depth Chart: The Reds are still in a position to win, even with the loss of on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo. With Votto recently locked up to a monster contract, it's easy to believe that the Reds could be in contention for a long time. Though, there's also the chance that get stuck in mediocrity, as their pitching staff can't seem to match up with the Cardinals even with a dominant Johnny Cueto.

Pitching: Cueto, Cingrani, Bailey, Leake, Latos B
Bullpen: Chapman, Broxton, Marshall, Lecure B+
Infield: Mesoraco, Votto, Phillips, Cozart, Frazier B
Outfield: Ludwick, Bruce, Hamilton B
Bench: Pena, Shumaker, Santiago, Bernadina C-

Farm System: This is where the Reds falter in comparison with the rest of their division. Despite a few strong drafts just recently, most of their young players remain years away from making a noticeable impact.

Keep An Eye On: Stephenson (SP), Ervin (OF), Winker (OF) C-

Ballpark: Great American Ballpark is one of the most underrated fields in all of baseball. Located right off of the riverfront, Great American Ballpark draws a few comparisons to PNC. If you like a mix of new-age and old school, Great American might be the park for you.

Summary: The Reds are in a challenging position, but also have the means to make a few playoff runs. All things considered, they are an endearing team to start a franchise with, if for no other reason than you get to steal 100+ bases with Billy Hamilton. With the core of Phillips, Votto, Cueto, Bruce, and Hamilton, you'll find yourself playing as a +.500 team for the next few years, at the very least.

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Member Comments
# 1 B Easy @ 05/28/14 05:10 PM
Another nice read, Ben. I enjoy your write ups.

I like the NL Central for the fact that you have a mix of teams that are ready to compete now, and in the future.

The teams that intrigue me the most are the Brewers and the Pirates. Yeah, the Cubs have exciting young talent, but honestly, they're almost MLB ready and at that point I'd rather just wait for them to play in the majors and be in The Show for real next season. The Brewers don't have any real top prospects, but that lineup is dangerous. The Pirates have a solid core intact, with a few young guns making their way up. Great mix of players, uniforms, and a beautiful stadium.
# 2 BenGerman @ 05/28/14 05:57 PM
Thanks B Easy, glad you enjoy them. I really like the NL Central too, and think it probably has the widest variety of teams to choose from. I'm usually more of a rebuilding guy, so this year I'm probably going to go with the Cubs.

The Brewers would probably be a ton of fun to play with, but if I'm looking to compete year one, I really wouldn't like their chances against the Cardinals.
# 3 GoRebs @ 05/28/14 07:48 PM
Thanks for the write up Ben as always... a great read! The Brewers are very intriguing and I am curious because I am new to the game but when you hit home-runs does the mascot slide down the slide? I would probably trade Braun and try to get some solid prospects for the future. What division are you gonna do a write up on next? :-)
# 4 Dr. Banner @ 05/29/14 02:18 AM
I always play as the cubs... I like to create myself (99 overall of course lol) and try to bring the cubs a world series title.
# 5 DavidTheGreat20 @ 05/29/14 11:46 PM
AL Central next?

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# 6 Spanky @ 06/05/14 10:11 PM
Good division to play with:

Reds: Love hitting with Hamilton because every time he gets on he's virtually assured of stealing second and the 1-2 punch of Votto and Bruce in the middle of the lineup. Like cranking up the radar gun with Chapman.

Brewers: Can't stand their pitching but it's a good hitting team so it's fun to swing with the bat with these guys.

Cubs: The park, plain and simple. No other reason to even play with this AAA team. Theo Epstein's doing a bang-up job here.

Pirates: Again, the park makes the team, which is fairly bland outside of McCutcheon. I like their 70s throwbacks and the yellow caps.

Cardinals: Great hitting and pitching, so it's always a blast to play with the Redbirds. And their home alternate unis are terrific.

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