I'm sure by now every Oriole fan knows who Adam Jones is.
Maybe because of the position the O's have been in for the last, say, 10 years, no one has really taken a good look. Well in case you haven't noticed, he is playing center field for the O's and is the most exciting player to be there since the days of Paul Blair.
His batting average from last year isn't going to open many eyes (.270), but if you are truly a student of the game, you have to admit it wasn't bad for a rookie.
His home run total (9) isn't going to move many outfielders onto the warning track, and his RBI total (57) isn't going to scare any managers into an automatic intentional walk either.
BUT everyone knows there is something special about this player. Take a closer look at some of the things he has done already.
From experience I have never seen a player in today's game that can make adjustments as fast as he can. Most organizations expect it to take 2-3 years for a young player to adjust to ML pitching.
I have seen him go from three strikeouts on breaking balls one night to three base hits on breaking balls the next. I've seen him go from long free-swinging rookie to short, quick, deciplined ML hitter, all in two months--warp speed if you talk to O's hitting coach Terry Crowley who has taught the best hitters this game has seen in the last two decades.
I might even mention how hard it is to move from 8th in the lineup one year to 2nd the next. Thats a lot of pressure to absorb, and so far, he has done it productively.
Now equally as important, he has caught my eye in the garden, center field. You just can't win if you're not strong up the middle--CA-SS-2B-CF--and he has a clue.
His first year he showed tools: speed, arm, instincts. His stride was good and he exploded after the ball. Though tentative sometimes to take total charge, that's what you expect from a first year player.
It's a lot different now that he realizes he's the boss out there, and it's a lot of fun watching the transformation. What I really like is his willingness to challenge the opposition to hit the ball over his head now.
He has no fear playing shallow and has already gotten to 4 or 5 balls that would have fallen in for hits last year.
This isn't to say he has mastered it all yet; I would like to see the accuracy of his throws be a little better, but that's a matter of getting his hand directly behind the ball when he releases it, a small adjustment.
Overall what we are seeing in center field is championship caliber.
Works for me.