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O's honor Minor Leaguers for their play

O's honor Minor Leaguers for their play

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles welcomed some special guests on Monday, when they distributed their Minor League awards to their top prospects. Catcher Matt Wieters was named the Player of the Year after a huge season split between Class A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, and Brad Bergesen was named Pitcher of the Year for his work at Bowie.

Baltimore also honored Cliff Flagello as the winner of the Elrod Hendricks Minor League Community Service Award, which is named after the longtime Orioles coach and player and meant to reflect strong ties to the team's fanbase. Wieters, the team's top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was asked the bulk of the questions at the joint press conference.

"It's a great year and a great award," he said. "It's something I worked hard for in the offseason to be able to have a very good year and to get an honor like this with these guys is something special. It was a great year both personally and team-wise."

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Wieters, the fifth overall pick in 2007, was recently named the Baseball America Player of the Year after batting .345 with 15 home runs in 69 games for Frederick and .365 with 12 homers in 61 games for Bowie. Many analysts have speculated that the switch-hitter may already be ready for the big leagues, but he said he's willing to take his time.

Wieters, a top-notch offensive talent, declined to answer when asked if his bat was ahead of his glove.

"If you could explain hitting, you'd be making a lot more money," he said. "There are going to be times when you're feeling good and times where you're not. The key is always to get a good pitch to hit, get a strike. Going up to Double-A, the pitchers have even more command. You're able to get a pitch in the zone, and hopefully you can do some damage with it."

Bergesen, meanwhile, wasn't expected to make the same kind of impact. The right-hander led the Double-A Eastern League with 15 wins, three complete games and two shutouts, finishing sixth in the circuit in ERA (3.22). Bergesen attributed his success to improved health and an offseason spent improving his slider and learning to rely on his sinker.

"I've struggled with some sicknesses and the year before that I got hit in the head during batting practice," he said. "This year, I was fortunate enough to stay healthy. I got the opportunity early on and I just tried to make the most of it."

Both Bergesen and Wieters are emblematic of an improving farm system that seems to be on the verge of providing some Major League ready talent. Wieters, labeled by many the best position player in the '07 Draft, knows that the organization is counting on him -- and several other mid-level prospects -- to help reverse the team's 11-year run of losing records.

"The two teams I played with, you could definitely see the depth and the talent," he said, referring to both Frederick and Bowie. "You get that feeling from Spring Training, and you get the feeling that you're with some players that have some special qualities. We were able to have a pretty good year throughout the system."

And now, they have to consolidate and improve their skills enough to make the big league leap. Brad Komminsk, the manager for Bowie, said he saw plenty of good things from Wieters and expected more in the near future.

"He could be [in the big leagues]. He'd probably be pretty successful, too," he said. "He had a great approach from both sides of the plate. He takes a lot of pitches he can't do anything with. If he gets something to hit, he's going to hit it. He has a knack for putting the barrel on the ball. It's a special thing when guys can do that and he does it pretty consistently.

"Defensively, he got better and better as the year went on. ... He throws as good as anybody you'll see. For a big guy that's saying something, he's got a lot of body to stretch out to make a throw, but he'll find a way to do it. He's deceptive, too."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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