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: Randol Rojas
Birthplace: Valencia, Venezuela
HT/WT: 6' 0"/160 lb.
Arm Action: Quick
Delivery/Mechanical characteristics: Good; standard three-quarters angle
Physical description: Short and athletic with some room for additional growth/strength
Abilities: Quick arm produces movement (arm-side run) to average FB. Shows advanced feel for mound with maturity and focus. Already has solid-average feel for strike zone and projects to have plus control. Very good 76-78 mph CB with late, sharp break that plays well off FB. CU flashes solid-average to plus potential with good fading movement that forces weak contact from LH. Does a good job of staying in arm slot.
Weaknesses: Lacks elite FB velocity and doesn’t attack hitters with pitch. Needs to sharpen his FB command within the zone, as he tends to slip under the ball and elevate pitch making him susceptible to hard contact. Has a tendency to open up early and throw across his body with a follow-through off to 1B. CU can be thrown too hard with deliberate actions causing pitch to float more than fade. Doesn’t possess prototypical size and strength, so is forced to rely on location and deception over power.
Conclusion: Lowered OFP two points based on command/control projection without elite arsenal or frontline physical projection (raw OFP suggests a #3 starter ceiling). Rojas is an athletic strike thrower with the makings of two promising off-speed pitches and a FB that is hard to square-up when he spots it. Advanced feel for the mound allows stuff to play-up, and natural athleticism helps to keep him mechanically consistent and able to make adjustments. Tool-based projection: 54; Solid-average #4/#5 starter at the major league level.