When the Orioles acquired Adam Jones from Seattle five years ago, they hoped they had found a player to build around for the future.
But they couldn't have projected exactly how much of a franchise cornerstone the prospect would grow into.
Jones took a major step in his development in 2012. He signed a big contract early in the season, making him the second-highest-paid center fielder in baseball at the time. It also sent a message to the Orioles' clubhouse early in what would become a magical playoff season.
Jones, joined by Gold Glove shortstop J.J. Hardy and Gold Glove catcher Matt Wieters, brings to the Orioles a stable central core. Around that trio -- as well as right fielder Nick Markakis and third baseman Manny Machado -- the Orioles have a strong 30-and-under nucleus.
Jones had career highs in batting average (.287), stolen bases (16), doubles (39) and homers (32) in 2012.
He still has room to grow. Consistency is one area. Strikeouts -- a career-high 126 against just 34 walks last season -- are another.
This month, he'll be on the global stage, playing with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
Jones is a unique character and a clubhouse leader away from the field. With his role on the national team vaulting him to yet another stratosphere, the center fielder could be primed to reach superstar status in 2013.