When deciding whether or not to go forward with this series, I relied heavily on those already in the scouting world for advice. Scouting players is a very difficult challenge, and despite my egotistical belief in my own ability, I'm not foolish enough to think my analysis is the final word.
However, I have been able to see most of the players in the Rangers' system, and I have had the opportunity to discuss the abilities of those players with people in the business of talent evaluation. It is from those discussions and from my own observations that these scouting reports were crafted. Scouting isn't an exact science, and I'm sure there will be differing opinions on the grades, but I'm confident that all of the analysis presented here will be completely objective and accurate to the best of my ability.
Former Baseball HQ prospect writer and current member of the St. Louis Cardinals scouting department, Deric McKamey, on how players are graded by scouts:
Scouts grade players based on a 20-to-80 (or 2-8) scale, with 80 representing the highest achievable grade. The grade of 50 is considered major league average. Position players are graded in five categories (hitting, power, speed, throwing, and fielding), which are typically referred to as the "five tools." Players will also receive grades for base running, arm accuracy, baseball instinct, and aggressiveness, though they do not account as much for the final grade.
An amateur player or minor league player will receive two grades for each tool: a present grade and a future grade, based on how they are expected to perform in the majors. Future grades are added and then divided by the number of grades to determine their Overall Future Potential (OFP). A scout can then adjust a player's OFP by 10 points based on the lesser categories and their gut instinct.
Elvis Andrus's Grades:
Elvis Andrus seems to be a player that you either believe in and want to champion, or a player that you think is overrated and the product of age-relative-to-league-generated hype. Regardless of whether you believe in Andrus the prospect or not, it's next to impossible not to admire his raw tools.
Andrus has been touted as a defensive wizard since the Braves signed the Venezuelan shortstop to a near-$600,000 bonus back in 2005. Promoted aggressively through the minors, Andrus has developed a reputation as a player who has a ton of raw tools, but lacks the on-the-field production to back up the hype.
On defense, Andrus has the skill set to one day emerge as a perennial Gold Glove winner. He has pillow-soft hands that can absorb grounders into his glove like the ball was made of glass. His range is exceptional, propelled by his knack to always be in the right place at the right time as if he was already informed where the ball was going to be hit. His arm, a legit plus tool, produces throws with excellent carry and a ball that appears to explode out of his hand thanks to his ultra-quick release.
The knock on Andrus's defense, and ammo for his detractors, has been the high error totals he has accumulated thus far in his minor league career. It's true that Andrus is guilty of lazy errors, mostly stemming from poor throws made on balls he should hold onto and routine grounders that simply don't challenge him enough, but as he continues to climb the professional ladder these avoidable errors should be corrected through continued game repetition and maturity.
With the bat in hand, Andrus doesn't exactly match his impressive defensive skill set, but he isn't a one-dimensional player either. With a sound approach and improved hitting mechanics, Andrus is able to consistently put the ball into play. Along with his plus speed (4.2 seconds down the line), and his solid contact rates, Andrus should be able to hit for a relatively high batting average (.286-.300) at the major league level.
Andrus is never going to hit for much power. He is able to generate good bat speed, but his swing has a flat plane that lacks much loft. His age suggests to some that his power numbers will continue to climb as he develops, but Andrus is already somewhat physically mature for his age, and despite being a fast-twitch athlete with good strength, his ability to hit a baseball into the seats just isn't there. Andrus is more of a gap-to-gap hitter that should eventually be able to hit 7-10 home runs and 25-30 doubles at the major league level.
With off-the-chart make-up and the drive to be the best, Andrus should be able to maximize his skill set. His defense has a chance to be special, and his offensive potential, although limited, gives Andrus the weapons to be more than just a major league regular.