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: Tommy Mendonca
Birthplace: Turlock, California
HT/WT: 6' 1"/200 lb.
Body type: Athletic with above-average strength; physically mature
Intangibles: Outstanding; very coachable with high baseball IQ and work ethic
Abilities: Physically strong hitter with plus power potential. Has ability to use all fields, but has more concentrated power to the pull-side. Works hard to correct flaws in swing; pushes himself to maximize tools. Plus glove at 3B with fluid actions including a smooth pick-up and soft hands. Has good range despite lacking elite quickness. Excellent instincts for the position.
Weaknesses: Swing can get long and loopy. Has a tendency to drop his left (back) arm during the loading phase causing his lead arm to elevate and bar creating a longer path to the ball and an exploitable hole in the swing. Poor pitch recognition forces off-balance, front-foot swings and weak, inconsistent contact making him vulnerable to quality breaking stuff. Despite strong arm, accuracy is currently below-average because of rushed throwing mechanics and footwork.
Conclusion: Raised OFP one point based on defensive skill set and power potential. Mendonca projects to have plus power and excellent defensive tools as he develops. Currently a one-dimensional offensive threat, Mendonca must refine his overall approach at the plate in order to make more consistent contact against quality pitching. Has the potential to offer above-average defense at 3B with 30 HR power. Tool-based projection: 55; solid first-division starter at the major league level.