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: Joseph Wieland
Birthplace: Reno, NV
HT/WT: 6' 3"/175 lb.
Arm Action: Good
Delivery/Mechanical characteristics: Good; repeatable/standard ¾
Physical description: Tall and athletic; frame could hold some additional muscle/strength
Abilities: Excellent feel for the mound with a mature arsenal. Locates FB mix to both sides of the plate and can change speeds effectively. Ability to harness natural movement of the pitch (especially lower in the zone) allows him to force weak contact without walking hitters/getting behind in the count. FB should become a sustainable offering in the 90-94 range. CB has plus potential with a sharp break and commandability. CU is a LH/RH pitch that is effectively thrown off FB, offering deception and good arm-side fade. Plus command/control projection stems from athleticism and repeatability in his delivery.
Weaknesses: Doesn't possess overpowering FB and doesn't project to add much more peak velocity (T94). Throws strikes, but is still refining his FB command within the zone. Doesn't always use his height to create downhill plane, offering hitters a good sightline to the ball. CU and CB can be inconsistent as out-pitches and often catch too much plate; tendency to overthrow secs.
Conclusion: Lowered OFP two points based on strength of overall arsenal and projection. Wieland is an athletic strikethrower with slightly above-average stuff that shows good feel for the mound and game intelligence. Doesn't have elite projection, but maximizes the effectiveness of his arsenal by changing speeds and showing natural feel for sequence and situation. Tool-based projection: 55; solid-average No. 3-4 starter at the major league level.