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: Pedro Strop
Birthplace: San Cristobal, D.R.
HT/WT: 6' 0", 175 lb.
Arm Action: Obnoxiously quick arm; loose, but violent action
Delivery/Mechanical characteristics: Max effort type, with elevated elbow in pick-up and noisy glove-hand ; three-quarters delivery
Physical description: Athletic and slender with wiry strength; long arms/fingers
Abilities: Possesses the necessary arsenal to find success as a late-innings reliever at the major league level. FB usually sits in the 93-96 mph range and has shown the ability to touch the upper-90s. Thanks to ultra-fast arm action, Strop is able to generate above-average pitch movement, with the dual threat of armside run and natural weight, creating a ball that is difficult to lift. At present, his FB command is fringe-average, but projects to become major league average with more refinement; good control. His hard slider flashes plus at times, thrown in the 83-85 mph range, with sharp tilt that can be difficult on RH.
His splitter, a legit major league wipeout pitch, is thrown effectively off his FB, offering excellent deception thanks to consistent arm-speed and plane. The pitch features heavy trap-door movement that misses bats, making the splitter a weapon against both LH and RH. Shows ability to throw strikes, with improving command (average) within the zone. Unlike most soon-to-be 25-year-old prospects, Strop didn’t make the transition to the mound until 2006, so there is still a little room for raw pitch improvement. Thanks to plus athleticism and infield actions, Strop fields position very well. Shows aggressive approach and decent feel for the mound.
Weaknesses: Mechanical issues, specifically, an elevated right elbow during pick-up and whip-like arm action that looks rather violent, putting extra strain on his shoulder. His FB, while featuring plus-plus velocity and above-average movement, has a tendency to suffer under the weight of inconsistent command; too many hitter’s strikes and not enough quality strikes. His slider can be very good and very bad; pitch will flatten out when he doesn’t stay on top of it and show more spin than break. Basically, the pitch can look like an 84 mph two-plane CB that buckles the knees of RH or it can look like a spinning change-up that lacks movement. His splitter is nasty, but sometimes too nasty, resulting in unpredictability, which limits the overall function of the pitch. Lacks polish.
Conclusion: Lowered OFP grade one point based on inconsistent FB command and age/polish. Strop has the arsenal to be a dominant late-innings reliever at the major league level. His FB can sit in the plus-plus range and touch the upper 90s while maintaining above-average movement. His command of the pitch is inconsistent, but he has a good feel for the strike zone and can effectively use the FB to set-up his secondary offerings. When he stays on top of it, his slider can be quite effective against RH, featuring a sharp, two-plane break.
His splitter is a filthy pitch that is the perfect companion to his FB; the pitch has an aggressive vertical drop, but can be difficult to harness. Despite age, Strop is still learning the nuances of the game, and has room in his skill set for improvement. Tool-based grade: 57; frontline set-up man at the major league level.
[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.]