It's bleak in Seattle. The Mariners are a young team with a rapidly-decreasing payroll and solid prospects, so the future is bright, but the Angels and Rangers are just too much to overcome.
By all accounts, Seattle had a decent offseason. Their big move was sending starter Michael Pineda and pitching prospect Jose Campos to the Yankees in a trade that brought back Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi. They also added a few low-cost role players in Kevin Millwood, Hisashi Iwakuma and Munenori Kawasaki. The Mariners should be an improved team, and with a few good breaks, a .500 record isn’t out of the question. Unfortunately, they play in the AL West, where they’ll face a monster Rangers lineup and an Angels team that made a couple moves you might have heard about.
Felix Hernandez - Hernandez is one of the best pitchers in the virtual and real world. He’s signed for a few more years, and you should do everything he can to keep him around longer. Aces don’t come around every day. He alone guarantees you 15-20 of your wins.
Ichiro Suzuki - Ichiro had a miserable 2011 season, but he’s still a key hitter in the Mariners’ lineup. He’s fast, makes good contact, and plays good defense in the outfield. Ichiro’s contract is up at the end of the year, and even though he’s getting up there in years, he’s worth resigning at a discount.
Brandon League - Seattle’s closer, has a ridiculous splitter and a couple other solid offerings. But his contract is up at the end of the year, and non-contenders really have no need for a dominant closer. League is a tradeable asset, and you should decide carefully on how best to cash in.
Jesus Montero - came over from the Yankees in the Michael Pineda trade and now shoulders the burden of turning around a dreadful offense. In real-life, Montero’s abilities at catcher are questionable. In video games, though, you shouldn’t hesitate to leave him there and enjoying having one of the best-hitting electronic catchers.
Dustin Ackley - Ackley is a good all-around second baseman who doesn’t have off-the-charts ability in any one category, but also doesn’t have any real weaknesses. Like Montero, he’s only in his first full MLB season, so the two young stars should anchor your infield for years.
The in-game versions of Chone Figgins and Miguel Olivo are dead weight. Trade them to the Yankees for an A-level prospect and rejoice at your good fortune. Unloading those two contracts opens up enough money for you to sign a couple of interesting free agents to keep the division competitive.
In fact, you’ll have enough money to bring in Roy Oswalt and Javier Vazquez on one-year deals, turning a weak rotation into one that can at least keep your hard-hitting division rivals under control. After year one, you’ll have lots of money to hit the free agent market and snag another top pitcher. Grab former Mariner Dan Cortes to add to your bullpen as well. Finally, replace Figgins’ speed with Felix Pie, who also offers excellent defense in the outfield.
You’re not winning in year one anyways, so your need for a shutdown closer like Brandon League is minimal. Trade him for a middle reliever with the potential to close. Atlanta’s Jonny Venters and the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen are good, cheap options that will perform as well as League and will remain Mariners property for years.
The Mariners’ top hitting prospects are already in your everyday lineup. Montero and Ackley are solid players with star potential, and their bats are among the best at either of their positions. Montero, in particular, offers better power than any other Seattle hitter. Justin Smoak and Mike Carp are decent and cheap bat-first youngsters. On the pitching end, Seattle’s top prospects aren’t quite MLB-ready. James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker form 3/5 of perhaps the most interesting rotation in AA ball in real life, so if you’re playing on The Show, make sure you download the OS Community Rosters so you can take advantage of Seattle’s greatest pitching assets.
Seattle is a great team for those who like rebuilding. With few long-term financial commitments and a developing group of young position players, Seattle is set up to improve. The Mariners have lots of payroll flexibility to allow for big-time additions, so in a couple of years, you could be giving the Angels and Rangers a run for their money.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Bright, very bright. The Angels made a huge splash in free agency, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t compete for a playoff berth.
In the wake of a huge new TV deal, the Angels went out and acquired the top hitter and pitcher on the free agent market, immediately making your favorite team’s offseason look boring. They also unloaded Mike Scioscia’s favorite toy, the brutally unproductive Jeff Mathis. They’re still stuck with Vernon Wells’ bloated contract, but savvy gamers should unload him for anything at all and move Mike Trout into his spot in the outfield. The Angels have enough talent across the board to hang with anyone. Their offense can’t compete with the Rangers, but gamers should have little trouble getting this team to produce.
C.J. Wilson/Dan Haren/Jered Weaver - The trio form one of the best 1-2-3 pitching combinations in baseball. As a gamer, you should take advantage of the Angels’ top-heavy rotation and throw these three as much as possible, using Ervin Santana to pick up starts when you need to. You have Weaver and Wilson for five years and Haren for two, and you should feel lucky.
Howie Kendrick - Kendrick broke out in a big way last year. That’s reflected in this year’s crop of video games, as Kendrick is a very useful player that you’ll have under contract for four years. It’s not easy to find good hitters that also play second base well. For that reason, Kendrick is a keeper.
Albert Pujols - Pujols offers the opportunity to use one of the best hitters of all time for 10 years. Video games don’t always model aging well, so your virtual Pujols contract should look a lot less risky than the real-life version. Try to break some records. With Pujols’ ratings, you should be able to.
Because the Angels have no obvious weaknesses, you can pretty much roll with the base roster and expect to do fine. Still, there’s room for tinkering. Torii Hunter is a fine fielder, but Peter Bourjos is much, much better. Get Bourjos in CF and find something else to do with Hunter – perhaps right field, which will give you an amazing defensive outfield with Bourjos in center and Trout in left.
Between Pujols, Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo, you have three guys that really should be playing first base. Pujols is the best fielder, so he should get the nod. Morales is the better hitter and should DH, so Mark Trumbo should become your go-to pinch hitter and spot starter in case Morales jumps on home plate again.
The Vernon Wells contract is an unmitigated disaster, and there are only a few teams with the money to absorb his deal. Why not package Wells and catcher Chris Ianetta to the Red Sox for their young catcher Ryan Lavarnway? You’ll save tons of money that can be used on a top free agent in year two.
Your most significant expiring contracts are Torii Hunter and Erick Aybar. Aybar is worth re-signing due to his excellent glove. Hunter will decline but remain useful, so he’s worth a 1-2 year extension at a low price.
The Pujols signing pushed the powerful Mark Trumbo off first base and into an amorphous role that probably involves some third base, DH, and outfield duties. Trumbo’s biggest weakness is his inability to draw a walk, but when controlled by a patient gamer, that weakness goes away.
Peter Bourjos has tons of range in center field and a decent bat. Bourjos and mega-prospect Mike Trout should lock down two of your outfield spots with great defenders for years to come. Trout combines a decent bat with exceptional speed and defensive ability. You’ve got Trout for six years at a low cost, and you should hang onto him. He’s the kind of player you build a franchise around.
The Angels also have lots of money and an amazing hitter locked down for 10 years. It won’t be hard to do well with this team in the long term.
LA has a solid combination of young talent and elite veterans that should have a few good years left. The Rangers aren’t easy to overcome, but this Angels team has the necessary pieces.
There’s power up and down the Rangers’ lineup and the pitching staff is good enough.
It’s almost impossible to come closer to winning a World Series than the Rangers did last year. There’s no reason to believe they won’t pick up right where they left off. Texas has young and veteran talent, as well as a lot of money to play with. The home ballpark won’t do your pitchers any favors, but with such a potent offense, it won’t matter.
The Angels made the most noise this offseason, but Texas did not sit idly by. Instead, they ponied up huge money for the right to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, who eventually signed a six-year deal to play in Arlington.
Josh Hamilton - Hamilton offers a rare combination of power, contact and defense in center field, but good luck getting a full season out of him. Keep him rested and healthy and you’ll reap the benefits of his tremendous abilities. His contract is up at the end of the year, and you’ll want to resign him, whatever the cost.
Adrian Beltre - The perennially-underrated baseman has huge power while playing a terrific third base. He’s just one of many players in the Rangers’ lineup with the potential to hit a lot of home runs, and in your home ballpark, he should do just that.
Kinsler/Napoli/Young - The Rangers have some proven bats. If you have Napoli catch, the offensive gains will more than make up for your defensive shortcomings. Young might be a player to unload, as he’s not such a great hitter that you couldn’t easily find another DH.
Yu Darvish - The latest high-profile Japanese import. Time will tell if he is more Ichiro or Matsuzaka, but the video game world has decided that he’s a top talent. Darvish has a huge and varied repertoire in this year’s video games, and you should be able to keep opposing hitters off balance by mixing locations and speeds.
In a ballpark that’s made for home runs (28 percent more than the average ballpark), you’ll want to make sure your pitchers generate strikeouts and ground balls. With Andrus and Beltre at shortstop and third base, you’ve got a terrific defense ready to vacuum up grounders.
This roster doesn’t really have any significant holes, but if you’re itching to make a trade, unload Young to save money and get younger. In 2K12, a package of Young and Scott Feldman will get you Brandon Belt from the Giants, who immediately becomes your top option at first base for the next six years. No, that trade would never happen in real life, but we’re talking about video games here. If the Giants’ virtual GM is willing to take that deal, you’re under no obligation to tell him no.
Texas is in great shape. The keys to long-term success are talent and money, and Texas has both. It will be difficult to hold off the Angels, but Texas is in a better position overall than any other team in the AL West. Elvis Andrus is a stud shortstop, Neftali Feliz is an exciting young pitcher, and Hamilton and Napoli are young enough that they should continue to be useful for quite a while.
Texas is a perfect “win now” team. There’s very little challenge in using a team with such a talented roster, so if you’d like to relax and just score a ton of runs, Texas is a great choice. Yu Darvish adds some excitement, and the Mariners and Athletics offer you lots of opportunities to pad your record.
Yes, Oakland has young talent, but the lack of money available means that you’ll have to patch holes creatively through trades and bargain signings. In a division with the Texas and Los Angeles juggernauts, that’s not good enough.
Oakland made their name in the early 2000s by picking through the scrap heap to find undervalued players. Years later, that’s still their M.O., and after an offseason where the A’s traded away two of their top starting pitchers, there’s not a lot of optimism in Oakland.
The Athletics restocked their farm system by trading away Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, and although the two brought back some solid future talent, those trades made the virtual Athletics much weaker. Surprisingly, the A’s rolled the dice on Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who immediately becomes their most interesting player.
Brandon McCarthy - Oakland’s opening day starter, and although he was great last year, he also set a new high for major-league innings and pitched more than three times as many professional innings as he did the year before. You always have to worry about pitchers who increase their workload that quickly, especially when they have a significant injury history. McCarthy is only on a one-year deal, so you should explore moving him to a contender around the trading deadline for yet another young, cheap pitcher.
Yoenis Cespedes - Although his terrific raw power won’t be reflected until some more roster updates come out, he's still fast and fun to play with. Cespedes is yours for four years on a contract that is expensive by Oakland’s standards, but entirely reasonable. A good defensive center fielder with plus power? Keep him as long as you can.
Brett Anderson - Anderson will be your ace when you lose Brandon McCarthy. He’s a solid but unspectacular pitcher with a wicked slider. At only 24 years old, he has room to improve during the life of his four-year contract, so develop him carefully.
Jemile Weeks - Weeks is really fast. He doesn’t hit the ball very hard, but once he gets on base, he’s a menace. He’s under team control for six years and is one of the better young second basemen in the game.
Michael Taylor - The outfielder is your top prospect. He offers an intriguing package of power and speed. Plus, he’s under team control for six very affordable years. He’s exactly the kind of player that a team like Oakland needs to build around.
First baseman Brandon Allen is useful against right-handed pitching but needs a righty platoon partner. Chris Carter could be the guy, but if you’re trying to maximize your year one performance, Derrek Lee is sitting there in the FA pool in 2K12.
Oakland has an abundance of acceptable but not great outfielders. Coco Crisp is your best defender, so you should make sure he plays in center. You’re not going to sit Cespedes, and Michael Taylor is ready for playing time, so Josh Reddick and Seth Smith will be battling for DH/4th outfielder duties. Take the guy you like less and package him with Bartolo Colon for some talent at third base – maybe a player like Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez, who offers power to a lineup lacking big bats.
In your bullpen, Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour are redundant. Trade Fuentes and Johnny Gomes for a young, cheap reliever like the Angels’ Bobby Cassevah.
Can you find playing time for Manny Ramirez? The 2K team thinks he’s useless. Do you?
Keep an eye on prospect Jarrod Parker as a future member of your rotation. He’s got good velocity and a fastball-breaking ball-changeup combo that makes video game starters deadly. The A’s are loaded with unpredictable youngsters, and you’ll need a few of them to perform for this team to even challenge for a .500 record. Michael Taylor and pitcher Tom Milone could develop into stars. If they don’t, you’re in trouble.
Oakland actually has a better team overall than Seattle, but the Mariners have a better crop of young hitters and more money to spend. The Athletics aren’t the worst team in the league, but it will take some savvy management and real stick skills to turn this team into a contender.
2 (In shambles)