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: Michael Main
Birthplace: Deland, FL
HT/WT: 6' 1", 185 lb.
Arm action: Good; quick
Delivery/Mechanical characteristics: Some effort/noise; comes across body; high three-quarters delivery
Physical description: Fast-twitch athlete; reaching physical maturity
Abilities: Potential for electric arsenal. Present fastball sits in the 90-91 range with a sustainable velocity projection at the plus level (91-93;T95). Pitch features above-average late life when thrown low in the zone, with sneaky velocity stemming from quick arm action. CB has plus-potential (the CB currently grades below-average, but could become an above-average pitch with consistency), with a tight rotation, late break, and 11-to-5 shape. The pitch plays well with FB and is most effective when thrown in the 75-78 range, especially against RH; Main hides the ball well and has a busy delivery that can be deceptive. CU benefits from FB/CB, showing solid fading action and velo separation from FB.
In theory, his plus-plus athleticism should assist with mechanical adjustments and repeatability in his delivery, Solid-average command/control projection. Well above-average aggressiveness on the mound; not afraid to attack hitters inside and up in the zone. Extra defender in the infield with excellent first-step quickness and defensive awareness.
Weaknesses: Lacks mechanical consistency and fluidity in delivery, which effects present command/control and CB efficiency; poor arm speed turns a tight CB with a late break into sweeping slurve with more drift than break. When FB is elevated up in the zone the pitch lacks movement and offers flat-plane visibility to hitters. CU is currently a below-average offering; pitch isn’t always thrown with FB arm speed and has trouble finding the strike zone. Well above-average aggressiveness is a strength, but it can also be weakness, especially when location and changing speeds represent a smarter play than attempting to challenge a hitter with a peak FB.
Conclusion: Didn’t change OFP grade. Main is a fast-twitch athlete with the potential for two plus pitches, average command/control projection, and an aggressive approach on the mound. His FB has above-average movement when located down in the zone and his CB features a late two-plane break that is very effective against RH. His CU needs further development to become an average major league pitch and he needs to find consistency in his mechanics. His overall feel for sequence and situation is present, but often overshadowed by his ultra-competitiveness and desire to attack hitters.
An eventual move to the bullpen would make sense, especially if the CU doesn’t reach its developmental peak; in short bursts, Main could run his FB into the mid 90s and use his CB to miss bats. Tool-based grade: 56; solid-average No. 3 starter/front-line set-up man at the major league level.