Andy MacPhail isn't promising any miraculous turnarounds in the Orioles' minor league system this season, but the president of baseball operations is guaranteeing that the team's future players "will get a lot of attention."
MacPhail said: "I don't think there's anything more important to this franchise than to start to have a reliable supply of players come up through our system. We are going to do what we can to be as good at that as we can."
MacPhail believes the Orioles are at a point where "it's more than just talking. I believe the action that the organization has taken over the last eight months or so is indicative of that."
The three full-season Orioles farm clubs based in Maryland will open the season at home tomorrow night or Friday night.
Tomorrow night, the Double-A Bowie Baysox will open against the Erie Seawolves, and the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds will play the Hagerstown Suns, in games starting at 7:05.
The defending Carolina League champion Frederick Keys (Single-A) will meet the Lynchburg Hillcats at 7 p.m. Friday at Harry Grove Stadium.
Two highly regarded pitchers acquired from Seattle in the Erik Bedard trade, 6-foot-9 Kam Mickolio and Chris Tillman, and local standout Chorye Spoone (Pasadena) headline the new members of Bowie's pitching staff.
Mickolio will likely be an intimidating presence on the mound for the Baysox, coming in as the tallest player on the team. He was the 18th highest-rated prospect in the Mariners' organization, according to Baseball America.
Tillman was the Mariners' second-round draft choice in 2006 and was rated Seattle's third overall best prospect by Baseball America.
The Keys will feature each of the Orioles' past three first-round selections, including the No. 5 pick from the 2007 draft, catcher Matt Wieters.
"The 2008 Frederick Keys are one of the most talented squads to have ever played in Frederick," said Keys general manager Dave Ziedelis. "The excitement from our fan base as we approach Opening Day is palpable." The other first-round selections on the team are infielders Bill Rowell, who was the ninth overall pick in 2006, and Brandon Snyder, who was the team's top selection in 2005.
Center fielder Matt Angle was drafted in 2007 out of Ohio State and is one of Delmarva's top newcomers.
As Aberdeen's leadoff hitter last season, Angle batted .301 and scored 60 runs, good for second place in the short-season New York- Penn League.
Another promising newcomer is 20-year-old left-handed pitcher, Tony Butler, who came from Seattle in the Bedard trade. The 6-foot-7 Butler struggled to a 4-7 record with a 4.75 earned-run average last season but could turn into a top Orioles prospect.