Adam LaMarque Jones (pictured) was born on August 1, 1985 in San Diego, California. After getting drafted by the Seattle Mariners, he shot through the farm system. In 2007, with the Triple A Tacoma Rainers, he hit .314 with 22 home runs and 84 RBI and it was clear Jones was too good for the minors. Despite being a true rising star in baseball, Seattle oddly decided to trade Jones to the Baltimore Orioles in a blockbuster trade that sent starting pitcher Erik Bedard to the Mariners. The move has, so far, proved foolish. Bedard won just six games last year while Jones hit .270 with 57 RBI and was clearly better-and-better as the year progressed. Jones is primed for a breakout this year, as he is just 23 years old and while he didn’t show raw power last season, he certainly has it, which he proved in the minor leagues.
Jones played center field last season and could’ve recorded anywhere from 170 to 200 hits last year had he not gotten injured. After hitting just .270 and .226 in April and May, Jones began to heat up in June and July. In June, he hit .323 with two homers and 12 RBI, mostly in interleague play. In July, he hit .330 with 19 RBI, including his first career grand slam—against the Yankees. Jones got off to a great start in July, going 5-for-11 in two games against his Mariners that dumped him, but hurt his ankle on August 3 and didn’t return until September 1. In his first at bat back, he homered off Red Sox starting pitcher Paul Byrd, but it wasn’t a sign of what was to come for the rest of the season. Jones struggled in August, hitting just .228, but it was mostly due to the fact that he wasn’t 100 percent healthy.
On January 18, 2009, the Orioles traded left handed pitcher Garrett Olson to the Chicago Cubs for another young outfielder in Felix Pie. Cubs GM Jim Hendry admitted Pie has the qualities to be good, but could never succeed in Chicago because of the depth the Cubs have, saying "Felix has a lot of good qualities. With his age, even if he was the fifth outfielder, it's hard to paint a scenario where he could've gotten enough at-bats to finish off his development." Pie, 24, has a feeble .223 batting average in two short stints for the Cubs, but as a left fielder, he hasn’t been able to get much playing time, backing up slugger Alfonso Soriano.
Pie, a La Romana, Dominican Republic native, had his glory in the minors. He will never be a slugger for the O's, as his high in the minors for a season was 15. However, Pie provides defense, a great arm, speed and does hit—just not for power. In the minors, Pie hit .299 in seven seasons, averaged just four errors per season, had 48 outfield assists, including 18 in 2006 and stole 117 bases. Pie enters camp as the O's starting left fielder and is happy with his new team. "I had the opportunity to play every day in the minors, and everybody knew me in the minors," Pie said. "In the big leagues, it was a little different. It was up and down and up and down, and I didn't get a chance to show people that I can play every day and I can be a superstar. Now, I can show everybody what they are getting from me."
Personally, I see a similarity in Pie and Jones, both being minor league stars yet to make their splash in the majors. Orioles team president Andy MacPhail has made a point of making the O's a younger and defense-based, speedy team. Hopefully, Pie can develop into an Adam Jones, of sorts. Pie is just months older than Jones, as he turned 24 on February 8th and Jones turns 24 in August.
Offense: Both these guys have good bats. Jones has more power potential than Pie and now has a year under his belt. Jones hit very well last year and got hot as the year went on. Pie hit .290 in the minors with 11 home runs, 60 RBI, five triples and an .802 OPS. Jones is a more accomplished hitter in the majors, but Pie can match up well with Jones and even overmatch him when he gets the playing time, which he will this year. In 2009, both could break out. Jones will likely bat sixth this season and Pie will bat seventh. I’d take Jones in a home run derby, but not in everything. Advantage: Jones.
Defense: Pie and Jones have super fielding and plus arms. Former manager Bobby Dickerson says he has a Derek Jeterism about him, saying: "He's an exciting player, a really exciting player," said Dickerson. "He loves to win. That's the biggest thing I've seen. He really enjoys winning ball games, and he always wins. Every team he's been on has made the playoffs, and three won championships,” he said. Pie has great range and an excellent arm and has the potential to be among the leaders in outfield assists. Jones’ arm struggled initially, but his arm and glove progressed as the season went along. Advantage: Pie.
Speed: Last year with the O’s, Adam Jones was not very active on the bases, going 10-for-13 on stolen base attempts. However, stolen bases never tell the story of how fast a guy is. In reality, Jones is very, very fast and has great initial burst. Pie is 11-for-12 in his MLB career in stolen base attempts and stole over 100 bases in the minors. Pie is a very smart base runner and also has great initial burst as a fielder and runner. One of the main reasons Pie was acquired by the O’s was blinding speed and very, very sound defense. Advantage: Pie.
X-Factor: Both players have some qualities that are encouraging. Pie has won three Minor League Championships and Jones has great chemistry, loyalty and generosity about him. He was a great clubhouse guy last year and always had something positive to say about the team last year, even while the O’s were in last place all year and finished 68-93. While Pie is a great competitor, O’s fans don’t know Pie and the advantage has to got to Jones, solely based on the fact that Jones has been in an Oriole uniform and has shown he is a great teammate and player. Advantage: Jones.
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