Every spring marks not only opening day for Major League Baseball, but it can also be a significant time for sports gamers.  March 31st will be another “opening day” for a lot of us hardcore baseball gamers as San Diego Studios releases another iteration of MLB The Show.

For gamers the first few weeks of the game’s release can always be interesting, especially for online play. Fans will try out their favorite team right away, but afterwards most gamers play as the teams that made a lot of offseason moves, possess the best roster, teams that are getting a lot of spring training hype, or a combination of the three.  For me it always interesting to see what teams are popular the first few weeks and how people use that team.  There are always teams that never meet expectations and eventually stop being used after roster updates.  Then you have teams that were never used in the first few weeks, but after that team plays well in the season everyone will want to give them a try.

With MLB 15 The Show release date only a few days away (6 days but who is counting?), here are some teams you may want to try when you first jump online…

Keep in mind most of these overalls were pulled from San Diego Studios’ live streams and although we do not know their individual attributes we can make good estimates.  San Diego Studios goes by a 3 year average where they put the most weight (50%) into that player’s most recent season.  It then will be weighed by 25% for their 2nd and 3rd more recent seasons.  For players that have less than 3 years’ experience, SDS tries to be reasonable and put more weight into their most recent season, while considering the fact that player could still be young and has not had enough playing time for a formidable sample size to base a rating off of.  This will make players, such as, Will Myers very difficult to project and assign an accurate rating to.  Something else to consider is that international free agents and/or MiLB prospects will not be added to the roster until they have played in a MLB game.  So do not expect to see the Korean phenom, Jung-ho Kang, in the game on opening day.

 

5. Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays added some key players in the offseason.  They acquired Josh Donaldson from the Oakland Athletics, Russell Martin via Free Agency, Andy Dirks from the Tigers, and Justin Smoak via waivers.  They did lose some power, however.  Colby Rasmus went to the Astros, while Adam Lind will now be the Brewers’ new first basemen.  Those are two left handed power hitters that the Jays will miss.  The Jays also lost Brett Lawrie in the trade with Oakland, who could eventually turn into a star but has never had a great offensive season yet.

The Blue Jays should still have a great lineup with tons of power, but they will be lacking some defense, especially in the outfield.  With no proven center fielder, you may have to sacrifice defense for offense (until Pompey gets added to the roster anyways).

Navarro will be an excellent bench player as he can hit from both sides of the plate, as well as play C, DH, or 1B.  It’ll be hard to play him over Martin, Encarnacion, or Bautista, but it never hurts to have depth.  Viciedo will platoon vs lefties or when Dirks is out.  This lineup has a nice balance of switch hitters, lefties, and righties.

Pitching will be the weak spot, but with Dickey and Buehrle at the top of the rotation that should be good enough to get you through 5-6 innings.  Plus, we all know facing a knuckleballer can be a chore in this game.

Expect this team to be one of the more popular teams to be used and for a great reason….they can simply hit and hit it far.

Recommended Lineup

Jose Reyes (88) SS

Andy Dirks (73) LF

Jose Bautista (89) RF

Edwin Encarnacion (86) DH

Josh Donaldson (89) 3B

Justin Smoak (71) 1B

Russell Martin (83) C

Michael Saunders (72) CF

Maicer Izturis (70) 2B

Key Bench Players

Dioner Navarro (79) C           

Dayan Viciedo (70) LF

Projected Rotation

R.A. Dickey (84)

Mark Buehrle (83)

Drew Hutchison (72)

Marco Estrada (69)

Aaron Sanchez (70)

Key Bullpen Players

Steve Delabar (77)

Brett Cecil (76)

Aaron Loup (74)

 

4. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox also made a lot of moves in the offseason.  They acquired Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez via free agency. They also acquired Porcello from the Tigers where they sent them back Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Wilson.  Additionally, they obtained Wade Miley from the D-backs via another trade, as well as signing the sinker baller, Justin Masterson.

This team will be loaded with offense, defense, and tons of depth.  They will be able to platoon very easily with players like Victorino, Craig, Nava, and Hanigan.

Their big international free agent signing with Yoan Moncada will not be reflected in the roster until he plays a game.  He is not projected to start on the MLB 25 man roster, so it could be awhile before we see him for online play.

Pitching will be their weakness.  Red Sox went for a “budget” rotation and went after guys who threw heavy sinkers.  Porcello, Kelly, and Masterson all do just that.  They still have Bucholz, but they lack a true Ace and honestly even a legitimate number 2 starter.  Similar to the Jays, the Sox pitching should allow you to keep the ball in the ballpark and try to win games by offense.  It will be hard to strike out your opponents, but if you can utilize those heavy sinkers/2-seamers then it should get the job done.

The Red Sox will always be a common team online, regardless of their talent.  I saw a lot of users online still using them, despite their down year.  Do not be surprised of the Red Sox become even more popular this year and be sure to give their offense a try!

Recommended Lineup

Shane Victorino (76) RF

Dustin Pedroia (92) 2B

David Ortiz (88) DH

Mike Napoli (77) 1B

Hanley Ramirez (86) LF

Pablo Sandoval (81)l 3B

Xander Bogaerts (73) SS

Christian Vazquez (70) C

Mookie Betts (79) CF

Key Bench Players

Allen Craig (71) 1B/LF

Ryan Hanigan (68) C

Daniel Nava (73) RF

Brock Holt (71) 3B

Rusney Castillo (69) CF

Projected Rotation

Rick Porcello (80)

Clay Buchholz (81)

Joe Kelly (75)

Wade Miley (74)

Justin Masterson (78)

Key Bullpen Players

Koji Uehara (83)

Junichi Tazawa (81)

Alex Ogando (75)

Craig Breslow (70)

 

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers also went through of a lot of changes in the offseason.  They definitely will be missing the power bats of Matt Kemp, who went to San Diego, and Hanley Ramirez, who became a Free agent and eventually signed by Boston.  Fortunately, the Dodgers had one of the deepest benches in the game and had a plethora of outfielders that can now step in the place of Matt Kemp.  Ethier should now be given a chance to start every day, while Van Slyke and Joc Pederson will be able to platoon. To replace Hanley, the Dodgers obtained Jimmy Rollins and he should still be an asset at SS.  However, do not expect for Rollins to be hitting for much power or average.  Last year, his power maxed out in the 50’s for San Diego Studios’ final roster update and his contact was not much better.  Despite the lack of hitting, he will be an upgrade defensively and on the basepaths.

Dee Gordon’s speed will also be missed, but in return the Dodgers did get one of the more established hitting Second Basemen in the league, Howie Kendrick.  Kendrick will be an upgrade offensively as his Power and Contact ratings should be both higher than what Gordon’s was last year.

Turner hit over .300 coming off the bench and was one of the league’s best pinch hitters.  Expect to see his contact rating to be 75+, while Barney can be a late inning defensive upgrade at 2B/SS.  Heisey will also be another useful power bat off the bench in key situations.

Of course, the Dodgers’ strength will be their pitching rotation.  They have the best pitcher in the game in Kershaw, along with 4 other quality starters.  Whenever you choose the Dodgers online, expect to have a quality hurler on the mound.

Their vulnerability, if they really have one in the game, will be their lack of bullpen depth.  Jansen is a great closer, but he may not even be usable upon release for online.  You should still be able to survive without having a good bullpen, since most of the Dodgers’ starting pitchers can give you 7-8 innings easily, especially for online play where most players struggle to work the count.  If I were to pick a faucet of the game which is needed least in an online baseball game, then bullpen depth would be it.

Dodger Fans should be proud to use their team online and with the key additions, expect the Los Angeles Dodgers to be one of the most common teams to use online.  If you are struggling with pitching then perhaps you should give them a try as well!

Recommended Lineup

Yasiel Puig (90) RF

Andre Ethier (78) LF

Howie Kendrick (82) 2B

Adrian Gonzalez (85) 1B

Jimmy Rollins (83) SS

Carl Crawford (81) CF

Yasmani Grandal (76) C

Juan Uribe (74) 3B

Key Bench Players

Joc Pederson (73) CF

Justin Turner (72) 3B

Scott Van Slyke (71) LF

A.J. Ellis (70) C

Darwin Barney (69) SS/2B

Chris Heisey (71) LF

Projected Rotation

Clayton Kershaw (99)

Zack Greinke (89)

Hyun-Jin Ryu (87)

Brandon McCarthy (79)

Brett Anderson (73)

Key Bullpen Players

Kenley Jansen (90)

J.P. Howell (71)

Joel Peralta (75)

Brian Wilson (74)

 

2. Seattle Mariners

Seattle will be another trendy pick for online gamers due to the acquisition of Nelson Cruz.  They also added Seth Smith, who hits right handed pitching very well.  Other than that, there were not many big offseason moves done by Seattle.

With the addition of Nelson Cruz, the Mariners should instantly turn into a top 10 lineup.  They have, arguably, the best hitting second baseman in Robinson Cano, a young emerging 3B in Kyle Seager, and a catcher that was 3rd in the league in homeruns. Brad Miller, Seth Smith, Austin Jackson, and Logan Morrison all should offer a little pop as well. There will be plenty of power in the middle of this lineup.

Felix Hernandez could have easily won Cy Young last year for the AL and will again be one of the better online pitchers to use due to his nasty sinker/slider combination.  Add in Iwakuma, Paxton, and Walker and you have one filthy rotation.  I don’t think this is necessary a top tier rotation, but it is right up there.

The Bullpen will not be a letdown either.  Fernando Rodney and his nasty circle change is always tough to hit.  Farquhar, Wilhelmsen, and Furbush add some good depth to the bullpen, as well.

One reason I like using Seattle is their surplus of left handed hitters.  Personally, I tend to hit better with lefties, since most of the time you’ll be facing right handed pitching.  Those breaking balls are a little easier to recognize and you have a little more time to react to fastballs.  Cruz should add a little more balance with the lineup.

Of course, the split attributes work both ways and can act as a double edged sword.  A major weakness with Seattle last year was the fact they could not hit left handed pitching.  This will again be their Achilles’ heel.  Cruz will help offset this a bit, but do not get twisted at all.  This team is designed to hit right handed pitching!

Expect to see Seattle be used a little more this year.  I don’t think they’ll be as popular as teams like the Red Sox, Jays, or Dodgers, but they will be just as useful to use online.  Make sure and give them a try and see if you can take advantage of the smaller RF in Safeco!

Recommended Lineup

Austin Jackson (79) CF

Robinson Cano (95) 2B

Kyle Seager (87) 3B

Nelson Cruz (83) DH

Seth Smith (74) RF

Logan Morrison (75) 1B

Mike Zunino (73) C

Brad Miller (74) SS

Dustin Ackley (72) LF

Key Bench Players

Justin Ruggiano (73) RF

Rickie Weeks (69) 2B

Jesus Montero (73) 1B

Willie Bloomquist (70) SS

Projected Rotation

Felix Hernandez (97)

Hisashi Iwakuma (86)

James Paxton (82)

Taijuan Walker (82)

Roenis Elias (71)

Key Bullpen Players

Fernando Rodney (84)

Danny Farquhar (81)

Charlie Furbush (82)

Tom Wilhelmsen (77)

 

1. Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals will be the favorites to win the World Series, easily.  They have, by far, the best rotation in baseball and it could possibly go down as one of the greatest rotations ever.  With the huge signing of Scherzer, the Natitude faithful should be excited once again to use their team online this year.

The rotation has 3 guys at 90 overall or higher and the number 6 pitcher, Tanner Roark, could easily be a number 2 for some teams; enough said.

The Nationals will miss the left handed power bat of LaRoche, but getting Ryan Zimmerman back from injury and placing him at 1B can surely replace LaRoche.  This lineup will be extremely balanced 1-8 with no real holes.  It doesn’t even matter how you set this batting lineup, because it’s composed of good contact/power throughout.

Harper fell all the way down to the low 70’s with last roster update from San Diego Studios in MLB 14.  I am not sure the reasoning to bump him back up to an 82 overall, but I won’t argue with it.  Harper still possess some of the most raw ability and power in the game.  Do not be surprised of Harper has his power back vs RHP to start the season and you can expect to see it in that 70’s range.

Rendon also had an amazing year last year and stepped up when Zimmerman got injured.  He hit 21 home runs with a .473 Slugging average, so you should expect to see his power and contact to be near the 80’s.

The one weakness with this team would be their bench.  Espinosa does not really possess power nor is he a competent bat off the bench.  The Nats also signed Uggla, but he may or may not be on the MLB roster. Moore is looking good in spring training and he could become the Nationals’ most dangerous threat off the bench.  Other than that, there is not much home to write about with their bench.

The bullpen should still get the job done, even with the loss of Clippard.  Roark will probably be one of the game’s most useful long relievers and you may want to even try him out in the setup role.

The Nationals will be used a lot for online and I expect the same this year.  Do I even need to tell you guys to give them a try?  I think everyone will be aware of the Nationals hype the media and fans are giving them, so we might as well jump on that bandwagon!  In all seriousness, give them a try, especially if you need to throw a number 3-5 starter.

Recommended Lineup

Denard Span (79) CF

Anthony Rendon (86) 3B

Jayson Werth (87) RF

Bryce Harper (82) LF

Ryan Zimmerman (82) 1B

Ian Desmond (87) SS

Wilson Ramos (80) C

Yunel Escobar (76) 2B

Key Bench Players

Danny Espinosa (68) 2B

Nate McLouth (70) LF

Tyler Moore (69)1B

Dan Uggla (65) 2B

Projected Rotation

Max Scherzer (94)

Jordan Zimmermann (91)

Stephen Strasburg (91)

Doug Fister (86)

Gio Gonzalez (85)

Key Bullpen Players

Drew Storen (80)

Matt Thornton (79)

Jerry Blevins (77)

Tanner Roark (79)

Personally, I tend to favor good offenses over good pitching for online games.  You can usually pitch better than what a certain pitcher’s ratings may be, especially if you are good with a certain pitching interface and you mix up your pitches well.  I also tend to favor Power over Contact, since a lot of the run production online comes via home runs and doubles.  These are the teams I recommend for online rated, so the depth of the pitching staff is just as valuable as having 1-2 aces.  In online rated stamina is a factor, so you cannot use an “Ace” every game.  There will be games where you will have to use a 4th or 5th starter.  This is one of the reasons I valued the Dodgers and Nationals so high.

What will be some of your most anticipated teams to use online and why?  Feel free to share your teams, agree with the ones I picked, disagree, or even criticize the teams I chose.  Stayed tuned for more MLB 15 The Show Tips once the game drops. Good luck to you all in your own virtual opening day!

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Cardinalbird5
Derek is a 27 year old that has been a sports gaming enthusiast since his early age. He has played sports games since he was age 5, going from RBI Baseball on the NES to MVP Baseball 2005 on the Xbox and now to MLB The Show on PS3/PS4. He plays MLB The Show competitively and has been ranked in the top 10 the past three years, as well as winning multiple challenges of the week. Derek strides to play sim, innovative, and implement real life baseball tactics that you see in the game today. He is also a huge St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Dolphins fan.