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 on par with that of a professional scout.
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.
Jose Vallejo's Grades:
Unlike fellow infield prospect Marcus Lemon, Jose Vallejo is a player that benefits from scout-based evaluation. His superior physical tools produce a raw OFP on the lip of 60, yet his major league projection is very similar to that of Lemon's. The problem with Vallejo's raw OFP is that it points to a player whose overall potential is not equal to the sum of his graded tools. This isn't a knock on Vallejo. He just isn't a 60 grade prospect.
Vallejo is a very exciting player to watch in person, as his skill set is very visually impressive. He is effortlessly athletic with pure speed that makes him an absolute nightmare on the base paths. He also has lightning-quick reflexes, a smooth glove-to-hand transfer, a strong, accurate arm, and a quiet intensity on the field that exudes leadership without the necessity of words. Unfortunately, Vallejo's grace on the field can't hide some of the holes in his offensive skill set.
Vallejo's offensive ceiling is rather pedestrian. I think he projects to hit in the .250-.269 range at the major league level with max power potential in the 15-19 home run range, although 10-15 seems more likely. Assuming Vallejo even reaches the ceiling of his offensive potential, is that enough to be a major league regular? Is a plus defender at second base (and quite possibly an above-average defensive shortstop) that hits .265/.315/.400 a player you want to see penciled into a line-up card for 162 games? Depends.
His hitting mechanics are relatively sound and his bat control improved during the '08 season, but he struggles to consistently drive the ball. He doesn't have the best approach at the plate and his pitch recognition skills often encourage him to lunge at the ball, causing a breakdown in his hitting mechanics. His ability to get out of the box and down the line in 4.0 seconds will certainly enhance his offensive opportunities, but without an above-average approach and without the ability to make consistent hard contact, Vallejo looks to be more of a slasher that will be forced to rely on his speed over his natural power.
If you value defense at a premium defensive position (as mentioned above, Vallejo will be seeing some action at shortstop during the '09 season; based on his defensive resume at second base, and his natural defensive tools, I think Vallejo would make an above-average shortstop; if Vallejo’s defensive skill can indeed translate across the bag, his overall projection becomes a bit more complicated), Vallejo might just be a player to get really excited about. If you think that defensive value isn't enough to justify a limited offensive projection, Vallejo might just be a player that you find doesn't live up to his OFP grade. Either way, or perhaps somewhere in between, Vallejo has the tools to play a role at the major league level. Whether that makes him a super sub or the next starting shortstop for the Texas Rangers will depend on his ability to develop as a hitter.