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: Robbie Ross
Birthplace: Lexington, KY
HT/WT: 5' 10", 190 lb.
Arm action: Good; quick
Delivery/Mechanical characteristics: Good; clean and compact; low three-quarters delivery
Physical description: Short and athletic with a strong lower-half; lacks physical projection
Abilities: Plus fastball projection, with above-average lefty velocity; the pitch routinely sits in the 90-93 range and can touch 94. With a high leg kick and fast arm action from a low arm slot, Ross is able to hide the ball well, allowing the velocity to play up even more. His best attribute is the bowling ball weight and late-life he gets on the pitch, displaying both boring and tailing actions, making the ball difficult to barrel and drive. His slider has the makings of a plus pitch, with hard, late tilt that is long against LH and can be effective as a back-foot pitch to RH. His CU has solid-average projection, showing good arm-speed, which offers deception, and good arm-side fading action to RH. With sound athleticism, Ross fields his position well and is able to remain mechanically consistent. He projects to have above-average command/control with a knack for spotting his FB low in the zone.
Weaknesses: Lacks physical projection. Natural movement to FB can be unpredictable and difficult to command. Lacks ideal height/arm-angle to create downhill plane to pitch. Slider is inconsistent; doesn’t always stay on top of it causing it to flatten out and "frisbee" to the plate. CU can run, but lacks the weight of his FB and often finds too much of the plate. Throws strikes, but needs to refine his overall command within the zone. Definitely a pitcher over a thrower, but could improve overall feel for pitch sequencing and changing speeds.
Conclusion: Didn’t change OFP grade. Ross is a short, athletic pitcher with the makings of two plus pitches and above-average command/control. Lacks elite size or physical projection, but uses pitch movement and the ability to throw strikes to force weak contact and miss bats. If CU and SL continue to improve, Ross will have three solid-average to plus pitches to work with. Tool-based grade: 56; solid-average #3 starter at the major league level.