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: Luis Sardinas
Birthplace: Puerto Ordan, Venezuela
HT/WT: 6' 1", 155 lb.
Body type: At the present, body is very immature, with long gangly limbs and very narrow hips; doesn’t project to carry much mass/strength, especially in lower half.
Intangibles: Work ethic is apparent; strong family support and maturity. Looks to have plus make-up.
Abilities: Fluid swing from the RH side, with excellent barrel awareness/contact ability. Swing mechanics from the RH side are quiet, with smooth weight transfer and short path to the ball; very natural. Some power potential in swing, with limited strength, but with slight loft, giving him the potential for gap-to-gap power; good bat speed. Shows good pitch recognition skills and projects to have above-average plate discipline; keeps hands back and has quick trigger allowing him more time to diagnose pitch type and location. Has potential for elite defensive skills and will be able to remain at shortstop at higher levels.
Sardinas has smooth actions at the position, with soft hands and a graceful backhand pick-up. His overall coordination is a plus attribute, with a fluid glove-to-hand transfer and footwork; great pivot on the DP. His range is currently well-above average thanks to his ability to read the ball off the bat and his impressive first-step quickness. He should be able to maintain this range as he physically matures. His arm strength is plus, with a quick release. He will flash 70 grade speed, with multiple ~4.1 times from the RH side. As he physically matures, his speed should stay at the plus level or above. Shows good baserunning awareness, with game speed, intelligence, and quickness, making him a stolen base threat. Big make-up player, with the necessary work-ethic, family support, and overall maturity to handle the pressures of professional baseball.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t have much current physicality and doesn’t have a frame that projects to hold much strength. Raw in most phases of game; lacks elite offensive skills. At the plate, looks awkward and unbalanced from the LH side, struggling to maintain hitting mechanics and fluidity in swing; has a noisy load, with busy feet. During load from the LH side, has tendency to drop his hands creating a flat bat plane, limited extension, and poor contact ability. He doesn’t pick up the ball as well from the LH side, struggling against off-speed stuff. Projects as a slash and run guy from the LH side, without the fluidity and pop he displays while batting right-handed.
On defense, his actions are true, but will make errors on routine plays because of rushed mechanics and lapses in concentration. Often relies too heavily on backhand pick-up instead of using his first-step quickness to get in front of the ball. His throwing accuracy is currently below-average, with sloppy mechanics; often throws from the hip with whip-like arm action causing the ball to sail and lack velocity. Doesn’t show consistent speed out of the box or on the bases; mostly a product of his age/physical development.
Conclusion: Didn’t change OFP grade. Sardinas projects to be an elite level defender at a premium defensive position, with plus speed and the ability to make contact at the plate. Despite lacking elite offensive skills, Sardinas has a fluid swing from the RH side, with more pop in his bat than his frail frame would suggest. He should be able to hit for average and get on-base thanks to his mature approach at the plate, contact ability, and plus speed. On defense, Sardinas has true shortstop actions, excellent range, and above-average raw arm strength. He should develop into a stolen base threat as he physically matures, thanks to excellent first-step quickness and baseball intelligence.
Sardinas is raw in most phases of his game, and will probably struggle at the plate for several years because of his current physicality, but the tools are there to develop into a very good player. Tool-based grade 57; first-division starter at the major league level.