Keeping up with the Joneses, and the Markakises

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The Baltimore Orioles are languishing in last place in the
AL East, a position that’s become far too familiar for this franchise that has
such a proud history and tradition.  They’re
already eight games back of the surprising Blue Jays and they look like they’re
well on the way to another long, losing summer in beautiful Camden Yards.  However, the light may be starting to appear
at the end of the tunnel for this team. 
They have promising talent just over the horizon in the minor leagues,
including Baseball America’s
(and most everyone else’s) top overall prospect, catcher Matt Wieters. 

 

Orioles fans don’t just have to look at box scores from AAA
Norfolk to find hope, though.  They can
see the future of their franchise blossoming before their eyes at the Major
League level every night.  They have two
talented young outfielders that are turning in stellar seasons thus far and
appear to be turning the corner toward true stardom.  Adam Jones doesn’t even turn 24 until the
first day of August and Nick Markakis will be 25 for the entire season, but these
two have been putting up very impressive offensive numbers and because of their
team’s lack of success, they’ve been able to do so in relative obscurity.

 

Adam Jones not only shares a name with one of America’s most
notorious felons, errr football stars, he’s also in the Top 10 in the AL in eight
of nine major categories and he’s in the Top 5 in six.  Markakis isn’t just a second fiddle
either.  He’s rapping out hits and
scoring runs at an All-Star pace as well. 
Take a look at what they’ve posted so far this season, with AL
rankings in parenthesis. 

 

 

 

Jones

Markakis

AVG

.363 (4)

.349 (8)

OBP

.420 (7)

.429 (5)

SLG

.669 (3)

.579 (12)

OPS

1.090 (4)

1.008 (t-6)

Hits

45 (5)

44 (t-7)

2B

12 (t-5)

11 (t-10)

HR

8 (t-10)

6 (t-22)

RBI

25 (t-11)

30 (t-6)

Runs

35 (1)

33 (2)

 

 

  Jones and Markakis
lead all of MLB in runs scored even though the Orioles as a team have only
scored the ninth most runs overall. 
Their 68 runs account for 40% of the team’s runs and they also have a
third of the team’s hits and doubles.  It
remains to be seen whether either will get a sniff of an All-Star invitation,
but certainly there’s no more dynamic pair in one outfield this season. 

 

This doesn’t look like an early season fluke either.  Markakis is in his fourth full season and is
a career .303 hitter.  He averaged 20 HR,
38 doubles, and 87 RBI his first three years. 
He’s on pace to obliterate those numbers this year and he can only stay
under the radar for so long.  Jones meanwhile
played parts of two year with Seattle
before getting his first full season last year with Baltimore.  In 132 games he hit .270 with 21 doubles, seven
triples, and nine HR.  His speed is a
huge weapon both offensively and defensively, though he hasn’t yet developed
into much of a threat to steal on the bases. 
Adding that aspect will only make him more dangerous.  Regular at bats have given him a new comfort
level and allowed him to unleash his raw talent and physical tools.  We’ll see if he can maintain his torrid pace,
but it appears this is his breakout season. 
Both players are likely to see their slugging and power numbers slide a
little, but neither is a true power hitter, so as long as they’re getting hits
and scoring runs the Orioles will be more than happy with their production.

 

Jones and Markakis are two solid young pieces that could
become mainstays in the Baltimore outfield
for the next decade.  If Felix Pie can
ever deliver on the promise that made him a top prospect in the Cubs’ system,
the Orioles could put together one of the fastest and most dangerous young outfields
in a long time.  Brian Roberts should be
able to maintain his status as team leader for several more years and if
Wieters and other prospects develop as expected, this team could become a
contender quickly and quietly in the star-packed AL East. 

 

The Rays made a complete turnaround and magical run last
season based on only a couple key young players having tremendous seasons.  The Orioles need some pitching (currently 12th
in the AL and 27th in MLB with a 5.37 ERA) to go with their lineup,
but if they can develop or acquire 2 or 3 solid starters within a few years,
this young lineup will make enough noise to drastically improve both the win
total and the morale in Baltimore.

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