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: Miguel Velazquez
Birthplace: San Juan, Puerto Rico
HT/WT: 6' 2", 205 lb.
Body type: Athletic with strong, muscular build; proportioned. Frame could hold additional bulk; lower-half could carry extra/bad weight as player ages.
Intangibles: Documented history of off-the field-issues. On the field, the player looks mature; responds to instruction. Noticeably competitive.
Abilities: Five-tool label with good combination of actualized tools and projection. At the plate, the hit tool shows some promise, with contact ability and barrel awareness. Starts with high hands and has a smooth, downward drift in the load phase, allowing for a quick path to the ball; fast trigger. Picks up the ball very well from LHP and gets excellent extension on balls out over the plate. Power is best raw tool, with fringe plus-plus potential. Uses raw strength, quick hands, and fluid hips to generate bat speed. Swing has natural loft allowing for good carry and HR potential. Hands might be best physical attribute at the plate. On defense, shows athleticism and instincts for RF; glove projects to be slightly above-average with solid-average range. Arm is plus with smooth glove-to-hand transfer, good carry and throwing mechanics allowing for plus accuracy projection. Speed is deceiving; slower out of the box with ~4.3 times to 1B, but slightly above-average present speed on the bases and in the OF.
Weaknesses: Missed entire ’08 season due to off-the-field issues; playing developmental catch-up. Five-tool potential, but only possesses one well-above average tool projection. Hit tool is currently fringe-average, with some mechanical flaws; body tends to stay too tall, with a stiff back. Plate discipline shows some promise, but pitch recognition skills need refinement; aggressive approach makes hitter susceptible to off-speed pitches, especially from RHP. Struggles to recover from bad guesses, which forces swing mechanics to breakdown causing upper-body swings and lunges. His leg kick can still get too high, affecting timing and balance. On defense, uses athleticism well, but needs to refine routes and angles. Limited to RF at higher levels because of average speed/first-step quickness.
Conclusion: Didn’t change OFP grade. Velazquez projects to have average-to-above average tools across the board; his hit tool, plate discipline, speed, and range all project to be major league average, his arm is plus, and his power has fringe plus-plus potential. Although his future projections all grade out as average or above, Velazquez will need to work hard to fully develop as a player, especially at the plate. His swing and pitch recognition skills need to improve in order to find success against better pitching at the higher levels. Tool-based grade: 56; first-division starter at the major league level.