1. Matt Wieters
-No he's not going to start the season with the big club, but all indications are that Wieters will be up at some point for the Orioles this season. The wunderkid is the best catching prospect in baseball right now and has a chance to be the face of the Orioles for years to come. Orioles fans should be excited to see just how good Wieters really is and how he performs in the majors. If Wieters is the real deal, the Orioles could be really competative in a few seasons.
2. The real Adam Jones
-GM Andy McPhail scored a major coup when he acquired Jones last season in the now laughable Erik Bedard trade. Jones is a massive talent, who can do just about anything on the baseball diamond. Jones put up decent numbers in his first season in the big leagues (.270, 9 HR, 57 RBI, 10 SB), but the general feeling is that Jones is just scratching the surface of his potential. Look for Jones to breakout offensively in 2009 and the Erik Bedard trade look even worse for the Mariners.
3. Nick Markakis
-It's been a long time since the Orioles had a such a good, young player, who was brought up through the farm system. But Markakis really is that good and has improved immensely at the plate in each of his first three seasons. There is no doubt that the Orioles are now building around Markakis, who was signed to a 6 year/$66 million dollar extension in the offseason. Look for Markakis to continue his ascent towards becoming one of the best outfielders in baseball.
4. Trade bait: Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora
-Since Andy McPhail has been installed as the general manager, the goal has been to rebuild. So far, the process has gone very well as the Orioles have picked up a number of valuable assets. But come this July, the Orioles will probably have a fantastic opportunity to further their rebuilding efforts. They have two aging veterans (Huff and Mora), who will be free agents at the end of the season and should be valuable trade bait around the trading deadline. Neither player has a future with the club because of their age, so fans, hope and pray to the baseball Gods that Huff and Mora put up big numbers in the first half of 2009. The better these guys perform, the bigger the return!
5. What to make of Felix Pie?
-After years of teasing Cubs fans with his potential, Pie will finally get a chance to start with the Orioles. If Pie proves to be the real deal in left field, the Orioles could have a young and dynamic outfield for the next decade. But there is no doubt that Pie is the biggest question mark. Why didn't the Cubs give Pie a chance to play? Is Pie only a fourth outfielder? Can he get on base enough? Will he hit for power? How Pie performs in 2009 will play a major role in figuring out the next step of the Orioles rebuilding process.
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