by Brendan Wilhide
MLB Manager 2015 is the latest version of the popular iOOTP series of text-based manangement sims. The new name reflects the fact that the series has an official full MLB license for the first time in the game’s history. The new license is a welcome addition to what has become a solid portable version of its more illustrious desktop counterpart, Out of the Park Baseball, and fans will welcome the new license atop an already familiar and strong feature set.
Longtime fans of the series will find themselves pleased with the same key gameplay elements from previous seasons: plenty of stats and ratings, an improved upon trade and free agency engine, and the general ins-and-outs that come with managing a baseball team from game to game and season to season.
The MLB license gives players the ability to control their favorite MLB team (with complete rights to teams and league branding) and its entire roster including many notable top prospects. All of the top organizational prospects at the AA level and above are included in the game. Kris Bryant is one of them and though he has yet to make his MLB debut he has been the talk of the baseball world since spring training as fans await his arrival.
In testing I took control of my beloved Cleveland Indians and played out the 2014 season. The best compliment I can give MLB Manager is that the players in the game approximated their real life counterparts. The Indians young starting rotation impressed and Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer helped the team win the AL Central. Top prospect Francisco Lindor took the starting SS position by mid-season and contributed to the team’s success.
I decided to test the trade logic by trying to pry Bryant away from the Cubs. What would it take, I wondered? The answer was a 3-for-1 deal of 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, 2014 AL All-Star Michael Brantley, and Francisco Lindor. It may be a steep price but I was happy the game wouldn’t allow the “backup catcher for top prospect” type deals.
With a solid stats engine and an improving trade logic MLB Manager is indeed a fun game to play. The biggest disappointment comes from injuries. Specifically there are too many of them, and especially too many severe months long injuries. In my first week at the helm of the Tribe I lost Michael Bourne and Brandon Moss for 2-4 months each. Both players are injury prone, sure, but these kinds of major injuries hit nearly every team in my league on a regular basis.
The game includes an option to disable injuries completely but of course removing them outright would ruin the challenge. These major injuries are quite distracting, however, and an option to further refine injuries and their frequency would be a welcome addition to the game.
As with previous versions of the game minor league teams exist solely as a holding area for prospects and other ancillary players. These minor league teams do not play any games. Prospects age just as you would expect but their improvement is tied solely to their age and playing time at the major league level. This is a long time limitation of the iOS version but it still may surprise some players who are just discovering the game for the first time.
MLB Manager is by far the most visible text sim available for mobile devices not named Football Manager. The addition of the official MLB license for this year adds to the mystique of an already deep and immersive game and represents a solid step forward for a series sure to grow in popularity this season.
The game is available on iOS through iTunes and Android from Google Play for $4.99. Thanks to Brendan for taking the time out to assess MLB Manager 2015. You can follow him on Twitter @BrendanWilhide.