The Baltimore Orioles have been the laughing stalk of the MLB for several years now, amassing a record of 791-1088 over the past decade. However, since the signing of Andy McPhail as head of baseball operations, things have started to look up for the lowly Orioles.
The Orioles have posted a record of 36-45 so far this season, but the upside for the O's is just reaching its boiling point. The Orioles have arguably one of the best minor league systems in all of the MLB. The team's nucleus is composed of outfielders Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and catcher Matt Wieters.
Since being called up at the beginning of the 2006 season, Markakis has been solidifying his place as an Orioles mainstay in right field. Markakis is skillful with his bat and glove. With the recent contract extension, don't expect to see Markakis wearing anything other the orange and black.
The phenom Adam Jones has been something of a godsend for the Orioles after being acquired in a trade that sent Orioles then-ace Erik Bedard to the Mariners. Jones started the majority of his games batting low in the lineup, as he was getting adjusted to major league pitching. Jones seems to have gotten the hang of it, after batting .307 with 12 home runs and 46 runs batted in so far this year in the heart of the O's order. Jones has also been selected to the 2009 All-Star team.
Reimold has been something a surprise for the O's this year, coming up early in the season because of an injury to Luke Scott. Reimold started his season in Norfolk with the Tides, the Orioles triple-A affiliate. Reimold was promoted on May 14 and hasn't stopped producing rookie of the year potential stats. Reimold is batting .279 with nine home runs and 20 runs batted in.
The last of the Orioles young batting is the pride of the entire organization, Matt Wieters. Since being drafted in the first round of the 2007 draft, Wieters has been on a crash course for the major leagues. Wieters finally got his shot after being called up on May 29 and seems to be adjusting to the majors just as well as expected. Wieters is batting .259 on the season, but is batting .284 over the past month. If Wieters lives up to his potential, the Orioles should be ready to add another plaque on Eutaw Street.
The Orioles hitting, however, has never been the organization's problem. The Orioles pitching has seen better days, as fans are forced to fondly remember days of Dave McNally, Mike Flanagan, and Jim Palmer among others, in order to forget the days of Bruce Chen, Daniel Cabrera, and Sidney Ponson.
Since McPhail has arrived on the scene the Orioles have added young talent to the farm system. Jason Berken, David Hernandez, and Brian Bergesen are those among that group that have already been called up to the O's starting staff. However, the Orioles lie in wait for pitching prospects Troy Patton, Chris Tillman, and Brian Matusz.
Patton was brought over in the trade that sent Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros, but was unable to prove himself after suffering a torn labrum early in the 2008 season. Patton came back this season, fully recovered, and is confusing batters left and right in Norfolk. Patton is now pitching in Norfolk after beginning his season with the Bowie Baysox, the Orioles double-a affiliate.
Tillman was also acquired in the same trade that brought Adam Jones to the Orioles n exchange for Erik Bedard. Tillman is looking to be the next pitcher to be called up to the Orioles rotation this year. The Orioles will probably give the young gun a chance around mid-August to early-September. Tillman is pitching with a 2.69 ERA and 82 strikeouts over 80.1 innings pitched in Norfolk.
Matusz was the Orioles first round pick in last year's draft, and is blazing straight through the minors just as Wieters did. Matusz started the season in Frederick, but has made his way to Bowie. In Bowie, Matusz has been dominant and could be ready for a call up to triple-a before the year is over and done. Matusz is 3-0 with a 0.49 ERA with 20 strikeouts over 18.1 inning pitched in Bowie. Brian could easily find himself in the Orioles starting rotation come spring training next year.
The Orioles will be a team to be reckoned with in the not too distant future, as their minor league talent slowly becomes, Major League talent.