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: Matt Thompson
Birthplace: Burleson, TX
HT/WT: 6' 3"/210 lb.
Arm action: Good
Delivery/Mechanical characteristics: Good; clean three-quarters delivery
Physical description: Nearing physical maturity; athletic with good height and well-proportioned frame
Abilities: CB has the makings of a major league out-pitch, with a tight rotation, excellent depth, and commadability. The pitch looks like a FB out of the hand. His FB currently sits in the 89-93 range and projects to reach a sustainable velocity at plus level (91-93; T94). Excellent control/command projection stemming from repeatable mechanics and overall athleticism. Works both sides of the plate and isn’t afraid to challenge hitters. CU continues to improve, showing good downer movement when thrown low in the zone; good arm speed on pitch. Very focused and mature for his age with natural feel for the mound and solid-three pitch mix.
Weaknesses: Despite fringe-plus velocity on present fastball, Thompson is quite hittable; leaves too many pitches in the zone (throws too many strikes and not enough quality strikes) and FB can get straight and visible. CU is improving, but when he overthrows the pitch at (83-84) it tends to hang in the zone and lacks the sink/fade movement and velocity variance it offers at (80-81). High leg-kick makes him slow to plate (1.5-1.6).
Conclusion: Didn’t change OFP grade. Thompson is a strike-thrower with the makings of two above-average pitches and a playable CU. Above-average command/control projection, but finds too much of the plate at the present and needs to sharpen FB command. CB is money pitch, but must continue to refine his CU in order to have sustainable success as a starter. Tool-based projection: 55; solid-average No. 3-4 starter at the major league level.