The following series will count down the 25 highest ceilings (based on AOFP grades) in the Rangers' minor league system. I have scouted every player on the list in person and compiled the grades using those observations, conversations with respected voices in the Rangers' community like Lone Star Dugout's Jason Cole, and conversations with numerous scouts. Being a subjective exercise, opinions will vary on the individual tool grades, and ultimately, on the final tool projections.
Before we discuss the scouting scale and my methods of evaluation, it's important to note that the AOFP-based rankings below differ from the prospect rankings you may be more accustomed to seeing. The grades here are based on raw tools, and aren't intended to capture each player's most realistic ceiling. Age, league, and other contextual factors are generally excluded, although younger players have more room for development and therefore can receive the benefit of such an abstract view.
It should also be noted that this series was designed to highlight players currently playing in the Rangers' minor league system. For example: a player like Neftali Feliz, whose composite grades would rank him in the top tier of prospects in the system, will be excluded from this list because he is currently on the 25-man roster and not likely to spend any time on the farm.
The Scouting Scale/Methods:
For each tool (hitter) or individual offering (pitcher), a scout assigns the player a grade on a numerical scale that runs from 20 to 80 in five-point increments. 50 is major-league average, and 80 represents the top available score. The sides of the tool bell curve are extremely steep, and there's not much space beneath the curve's tails. In other words, there are very, very few players with 80-caliber tools, and lots of prospects whose tools score a 50. Because of this, scouts may also assign qualitative descriptors (e.g., "fringe-average," "solid-average") to modify scores of 50 that don't quite warrant a bump down to 45 or up to 55.
The scout averages the tool grades to produce an "Overall Future Potential" (OFP) grade. (As a result, OFP also has a 20-to-80 range, but isn't limited to scores ending in "5" or "0.") After OFP is calculated, a scout can adjust it based on his observation, experience, and intuition. This results in an AOFP: the "A" stands for "adjusted." An AOFP above 60 is generally indicative of an elite prospect: a guy with the potential to star in a championship-caliber lineup, rotation, or bullpen.
An AOFP of 55-59 typically implies a prospect that will be a first-division starter, including a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter, front-line reliever, or second-tier closer. AOFPs in the 50-54 range suggest a solid-average major leaguer, including back-of-the-rotation starters and some late-inning arms who fall just below having "front-line" status. Players with AOFPs lower than 50 are usually fringe-average players like utility infielders, fourth/fifth outfielders, and middle relievers. Not a single player on this list will have an AOFP below 54.
Name: Mitch Moreland
Birthplace: Amory, Mississippi
HT/WT: 6' 2"/230 lb.
Body type: Strong frame with brawny upper body; physically mature and not overly athletic
Intangibles: Noted leader with above-average makeup and work ethic
Abilities: Mature line-drive hitter with plus hit tool and above-average raw power. Has improved hitting mechanics during minor league progression; path to ball is short and quick (great hands) resulting in consistent contact and is able to use entire body to generate solid-average bat speed. Developed understanding of the strikezone and has shown ability to work into favorable counts. Has plus arm strength with good throwing mechanics and average accuracy. High baseball IQ.
Weaknesses: Below-average defensive player because of poor speed/quickness. Glove looks to be fringe-average to average and routes need to sharpen up in outfield. Because of athletic deficiency, Moreland can't afford to take bad paths to the ball or misread off the bat. Despite having plus raw power, doesn't always get enough lift in swing to produce homeruns. Path to ball has shortened up, but higher level pitching might be able to expose some aspects of his swing, particularly with balls on the inner-half of the plate. Plus raw power only translates to average in-game power.
Conclusion: Raised OFP three points based on hitting ability vs. any defensive liabilities. Moreland is a player that has already exceeded his original scouting evaluations, so it's entirely possible that he exceeds his current expectations as well. He is a fluid hitter with a nice swing, average in-game power, and excellent awareness at the plate. His defensive shortcomings in the outfield are the result of his poor foot speed/quickness, but could play up to league average with more experience and cleaner routes. Tool-based projection: 54; solid-average major league regular.
*It should be noted that Mitch Moreland's tools have basically reached their developmental peak. This isn't to say that he won't continue to improve or refine as a player, which I believe he will. However, on a tool-based level, Moreland looks the same on paper in the present as he will in the future. Seeing him ranked No. 23 in this series might spark some confusion, especially since Moreland is considered a top 10 prospect in the system by most respected sources. But as I stated in the preface, this isn't a standard prospect list. Mitch Moreland, for his actualized combination of hitting ability and power, has a case to be considered a top ten prospect in the Rangers' system. However, when it comes to a tool-based ceiling, Moreland comes in at No. 23.