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: Jake Brigham
Birthplace: Winter Garden, FL
HT/WT: 6' 3", 210 lb.
Arm action: Good; loose
Delivery/Mechanical characteristics: Good; some deception; high three-quarters delivery
Physical characteristics: Tall and athletic with string proportioned frame; physically mature
Abilities: Prototypical size and athleticism. Throws plus FB in the 91-94 range and can sit higher in short bursts. When thrown low in the zone, the pitch has some arm-side run and bite that will ride in on RH. The pitch is effectively thrown on a downhill plane with good angle and easy velocity. CB is another major league quality pitch, thrown in the 76-80 range. When he stays on top of the CB, it can be a true plus pitch, with a tight rotation and late, 12-to-6 movement.
His CU will flash average at times, with good velo separation and fading action. His command/control shows league average potential and his delivery offers some deception with a late-hand break. An aggressive pitcher, Brigham has seen his stuff play up across the board in short bursts, and could easily transition to a late-inning power arm.
Weaknesses: Playing developmental catch-up after missing entire ’08 season with Tommy John surgery. Has some release point inconsistencies, which affects overall command/control and effectiveness of off-speed pitches. Has good balance in delivery, but struggles some to stay constant in arm-slot and doesn’t always stay in-line to the plate. FB has plus velocity, but lacks above-average movement, staying true, especially when elevated in the zone. His CB flashes plus, and should reach that level, but only grades out as average at the present because of arm-speed inconsistencies, causing the pitch to occasionally slurve, rather than show a sharp break.
CU is below-average at present, with good velocity, but a slower tempo, which doesn’t disguise the pitch. Struggles against LH because of underdeveloped CU and less-than-stellar present command/control. Despite excellent FB/CB projections, can be quite hittable at present; doesn’t dominate High A hitters like his stuff suggests he should.
Conclusion: Raised OFP one point based on FB/CB projections and potential for enhanced arsenal out of the pen. Brigham features plus-plus arm strength and loose arm action that help generate easy FB velocity. His tight, late breaking downer CB is another future plus pitch that shows wipeout potential. His CU is underdeveloped at present, with good velocity separation from FB and some fading action, but tempo issues can tip the pitch and the movement has more float than tumble. Inconsistent release points and mechanical hitches prevent above-average command/control projections.
Attacking, late-inning mentality and two legit major league pitches make Brigham a likely candidate to become a max-effort, power-reliever. If the CU and FB command improve, he could stick in the middle of a rotation. Tool-based grade: 56; front-line set-up reliever at the major league level.