- This game is pretty realistic in terms of just how intensive the details are. There are an awful lot of things that you have to take care of (i.e. ticket prices, concessions, training, etc.) but you really only ever have to do that for like 2 seasons until everything is maxed and so on.
- Advanced pitching and hitting mechanics.
- Advanced data in terms of splits, hot zones, etc. (no parks factors though).
- The computer will make some really ridiculous trades, especially in the offseason, to the point where you pretty much have to turn off computer trades. A lot of deals will happen where it's just a 1-for-1 where two starting pitchers get traded. I remember looking through a set of trades one time and it was something like Lester for Lincecum, then Buchholz for Lester, then Lackey for Buchholz or something retarded like that.
- If you got 5 or 6 years in to the future, teams that are bad right now don't get better. The Jays just toil in 4th forever and don't really ever finish the rebuild, instead trading Bautista for a lesser 3b, Escobar for a lesser SS, Romero for a lesser SP, etc. Part of this is because players who aren't on the 40-man roster (in real life) aren't in the game (unless you download a custom roster), so basically all teams have equal farm systems.
- The AI still kind of sucks, in terms of building teams. I remember seeing a National League team that had both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, and thus had one of them sitting on the bench as a pinch hitter.
I've killed an awful lot of time over the last year or so playing this game. It has a pretty good franchise mode, but Road to the Show is also quite well-done, save for a few nitpicks. I'd go ahead and pick up the '12 version when it comes out soon.
I randomly picked the Padres to be my team of choice, despite my hatred of the no-DH policy. They have a lower-than-average payroll capability, so we definitely have to keep that in mind while we're drafting. The draft order is random, so I ended up with the 5th overall selection, which is fairly good, though it snakes backwards, so we don't pick until the 56th overall pick after that. If you want a nice challenge, pick someone like the Rays or A's and keep your payroll low for a few years. Payroll can be turned off, however, if you really feel like doing that. I'd much rather draft some slightly inferior players with upside for cheap, controllable terms.
We won't be drafting relief pitchers (with a brief exception). Instead, we'll be drafting young, controllable starters to fill out entire pitching staff, at least until we get to the AAA portion of the draft. You can edit players to convert them to relievers (which also happens to drive the price down in their contract negotiations). They can be starters later when your current batch of starters gets expensive and leave.
Round 1- Evan Longoria, 3B.
I think this is a pretty easy pick, considering he's the only player in the top 15 or so picks that offers awesomeness at a low price. You have him signed for 3 years at $2.7MM, plus a final arbitration year available after that expires. Everyone else in the top 15 are at $15+MM. He's also 25, the youngest one.
Round 2- Jacoby Ellsbury, CF.
Ellsbury still has 3 years of team control, and it only 27. Typically I'd grab a pitcher here, but there were only older/expensive guys at the top here, plus I draft again in like 9 picks. Roy Oswalt and Jake Peavy went immediately after this pick, but the guy I really wanted stuck around, though I missed out on 5 years of control of Jason Heyward.
Round 3- Mat Latos, SP.
I was looking at Cole Hamels, but Kershaw, Latos, Gallardo, (Daniel) Hudson and Strasburg were all available to me as well, and I'd like at least two of them. At 23, 22, 23, 25, and 22 respectively, there's a lot of cheapened team control of all of those guys. Ultimately, Latos is the highest rated (barely) and is cheaper for longer than Kershaw. All of the above mentioned were drafted between my two picks.
Round 4- Max Scherzer, SP.
4 years of control and 26 years old. Thought about grabbing Andrew Mccutcheon and video-gaming him in to either LF or RF, but ultimately wanted another pitcher so that I wasn't going to be stuck with Joel Piniero or whatever.
Round 5- Andrew Mccutchen, OF.
Ricky Romero is currently the 11th highest ranked starter available, but is also younger than each of those above, and has 4 years of cost certainty attached to him. I'm hoping that because so many people are ranked above him in terms of skills or whatever, they'll overpay for Derek Lowe or one year of Hiroki Kuroda instead of 4 years of Romero. Cutch and Ellsbury will play CF and (hopefully) LF, due to who I'm going to get to play RF in a few rounds.
Round 6- Billy Butler, 1B.
Romero went and I'm sad. Butler has 4 years on his contract and is 24. Easy game.
Round 7- Michael Stanton, RF.
Hope Jeremy Hellickson lasts. Stanton is the steal of this draft, at 21 years old. He's one of those pre-arb guys that you have to extend in your first offseason, instead of going year-to-year with him.
Round 8- Jhoulys Chacin, SP.
We just missed Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson is 23 and a rookie, which is great fun if you can get control of it, but Gio Gonzalez and Jhoulys Chacin were both still there. The debate is cost and control vs. upside: Gio is 25 and will be a super-2, Chacin is 23 with a lower upside, but is cheaper now and going forward. If you're playing with Tampa, get Chacin, if you're playing with Boston, get Gio. Ultimately, I preferred the cost-control of Jhoulys. (See round 11)
Round 9- Pablo Sandoval, 3B/C
Daniel Bard is available and kind of interesting, since he's 25 and already a nutso reliever. Pablo Sandoval can catch, if needed (though Matt Weiters is still there, among a few others). Starlin Castro is 20 years old and a SS, and Gio Gonzalez is still available. I feel like any of those names are safe and good to go. Use scarcity as a tie-breaker. There are a lot of #2-3 SP's available, so I'm going to went with a position player. Check 2B and SS at the same time when evaluating scarcity.
Round 10- Alcides Escobar, SS
Just following the formula of young, controllable guys.
Round 11- Gio Gonzalez, SP.
Gio is still there, available on a min-salary.
Round 12- Brian Matusz, SP.
Still need a 2B (or another shortstop), some pitchers, and some bench bats. Todd Helton, David Ortiz, and JIMMERS are all still available, and really cheap, for some reason. I considered Rick Porcello, Brandon Morrow, Wade Davis, Tyler Clippard, and guys like Reid Brignac or Marco Scutaro to fill in at short. Porcello is going to be a super-2, and therefore more expensive despite being 22 years old. Mike Leake and Jon Niese are still kicking around too, and since most teams have filled in their rotations, they might stick around for a while longer during the bench/bullpen stage of the draft.
Round 13- Marco Scutaro, SS/2B
A lot of 2b/SS types went between my Matusz pick and now, so it was a little too scarce in terms of filling the everyday lineup's last spot. We're gonna go crazy with pitchers now, probably.
Round 14- Wade Davis, P.
Ugh, just looking around... Brett Gardner is still available. As an NL team, I won't have enough AB's for him though. His attributes aren't that good, but he plays fine in terms of defense/speed/contact/walks, so he's wildly underrated. I'll hope to score him for a bench bat later, but we gotta get pitchers. Anyway, Davis will be a bullpen arm, probably.
Round 15- Kyle Drabek, P.Round 16- Mike Minor, P.
Round 17- Derek Holland, P
Round 18- Travis Wood, P.
Everyone is grabbing pitchers now. Fill your boots. Probably need about 13 guys that you can make a rotation out of. Conversely, if you have a lot of pitching, go grab some guys with "A" potential under positions, because you can always fill your bench later.
Round 19- Brett Gardner, OF.
Round 20- Devin Mesoraco, C.
Round 21- Kenley Jansen, P
Round 22- Jim Thome, Bench bat.
Basically, from hereon in, just grab guys with "A" potential to fill your minor leagues and MLB bench. Pay attention to ages. There is the odd guy you can find (Octavio Dotel) who will be on a 1-year deal, where you can get a Type-B free agent/Draft pick out of it. If you can win enough games and sell a lot of tickets, you'll be able to do enough scouting and find someone who might be halfway useful to you down the road. Look around though, because I got Desmond Jennings in round 26.
Extend all your young guys in your first offseason.