Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 7/24/12

To be completely honest his is most likely not the Orioles year. They are a young and talented squad but there is too much competition in the AL to realistically hope for the playoffs. The real promise lies in the future.

Whether it’s next season or in 5 years the Orioles are on their way back. This return of the once great franchise can be attributed to a strong group of players at the center of Baltimore’s success.

But who is the most important going ahead. Is it the young superstar pitcher? Or will the gold glove catcher prove most valuable?

Here are my top 5 Oriole’s players of the future.

5. Dylan Bundy/Manny Machado- I had to cope out a little bit here. When you have two young prospects at the level of these guys choosing one doesn’t seem fair. If they aren’t rushed through the minor leagues Machado and Bundy could be some of the best players in the league. Machado has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez, while Dylan Bundy may be on par with some of the great pitchers of this generation. If either can live up to their expectations they are going to be phenomenal, but for now they remain in the developmental stage, so they can go no higher than number 5.

4. Jim Johnson- There is something to be said about the value of a great closer. For years Mariano Rivera has been one of the most important players to the Yankees considerable success. Jim Johnson has that kind of talent. Having only blown 2 saves this whole season, he makes any 9th inning lead insurmountable. Although older than the rest of the players on the list he is still only 29 years old. With potentially another 10 years in his career Johnson could be the difference for the Orioles as they climb the ladder towards the playoffs.

3. Wei Yin Chen- The offseason acquisition has had the most surprising year of any Oriole so far. While Jason Hammel has been the standout pitcher in Baltimore, Chen has not been too far behind. First in wins and second in ERA among the starters, Chen has proven himself as a top level starter. At only 27 years old a long career in the majors awaits the Taiwanese pitcher. For years Baltimore has been looking for a legit pitcher, and it seems they have finally found him. If he can continue this season’s success he will be the top pitcher in Baltimore in no time.

2. Matt Wieters- I will say this right now, Matt Wieters is the best defensive catcher in the major leagues. His gold glove last year is a glowing example of the young stars true ability. Although his hitting numbers haven’t been as impressive this past season, there is something to say for defense. As long as Wieters is behind the plate, don’t expect to see many stolen bases against Baltimore. If his batting can improve expect Wieters to, one day, challenge Adam Jones for the top spot on this list.

1. Adam Jones- The numbers speak for themselves though, with Jones leading the Orioles in every major hitting category. But it’s just the bat that makes him the top player looking ahead. It’s the face that he puts on the franchise. For the first time since Ripken retired, the team has a bona fide superstar. A face to put on the franchise is more valuable than any statistic another player can give the team. And that is why he is number 1.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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