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: Danny Gutierrez
Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA
HT/WT: 6' 1", 180 lb.
Arm action: Good
Delivery/Mechanical characteristics: Good; high three-quarters delivery
Physical description: Athletic with short torso and long legs; physically mature with some strength to frame
Abilities: As a starter, Gutierrez shows two FB; one is an 89-92 mph two-seamer with some weight and good downhill plane. The other is a four-seamer, thrown in the 92-96 mph range that has some natural run and late-life. He can throw both FB for strikes, showing good command of the two-seamer down in the zone. His CB is a 12-to-6 hammer thrown in the low-mid 70s with excellent depth. He has advanced feel and execution of the pitch, with the command to throw it for strikes or drop it 60 feet.
His CU is underdeveloped, but it has some promise. Effective in the 80-82 mph range, the CU is thrown with good arm speed and has some natural fading action. His delivery is conducive for good command/control projection and his athleticism is an asset in repeatability. Good feel for the mound, with the ability to change speeds and pitch effectively off FB.
Weaknesses: Lacks prototypical size. FB command isn't always sharp, as his four-seamer tends to ride high in the zone and lacks plus movement. Can fall in love with his velocity and allow aggressive nature to influence sequence and situation. His CU lacks weight and is underdeveloped without much feel for pitch; very hittable when overthrown. Health has been a concern, with injuries limiting workload. Off-the-field issues could directly affect ability to continue development and refine arsenal.
Conclusion: Didn't change OFP grade. Gutierrez features two actualized major league pitches, with slightly above-average command/control projection. His CU has the potential to be major league average, but he will need to stay healthy and out of trouble in order to develop it. With a very, very good 12-to-6 CB and a FB that can sit plus and approach plus-plus velocity in short bursts, Gutierrez has a chance to a weapon out of a major league bullpen even if his CU doesn't reach its potential. Tool-based grade: 56; solid No. 3 starter at the major league level or frontline set-up man in a major league bullpen.
[Check out the entire collection of scouting reports here. Special thanks to Deric McKamey, Josh Garoon, and Joey Matschulat. Follow me on Twitter @ProfessorParks. Professor Parks is currently out of the country on a scouting trip, but will answer any/all questions/comments at his first availability. Apologies in advance for the delay in the response.]