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: Jurickson Profar
Birthplace: Willemstad, Curacao
HT/WT: 5' 11", 170 lb.
Body type: Average height with lean frame; room for projection. Has solid strength and is a fast-twitch athlete.
Intangibles: Excellent make-up; strong work ethic, leadership abilities, and focus.
Abilities: Advanced skill-set for age. At the plate, shows a mature approach, with solid strikezone awareness and the patience to wait for a pitch he can handle (only 17-year-old I have ever seen with a major league approach in batting practice). Has excellent barrel awareness and contact ability from both sides of the plate; already able to work within the pitch and punch balls to opposite field. Hitting mechanics from the LH side are smooth, with some pre-swing movement, but a fluid, balanced load with excellent hand position that gives him a quick path to the ball and bat control. Power potential from the LH side is average to solid-average, with enough raw strength and torque in swing to drive the ball into the gaps. At the present, I don’t like his swing from the RH side quite as much, but his power potential is still very evident, showing impressive raw power when he barrels the ball.
On defense, his true shortstop skills should allow him to develop at that position as he climbs the professional ladder. Profar shows slightly above-average range at the position at present and projects to be solid-average in the future; he doesn’t have elite speed, but has good first-step quickness and his instincts are off the chart. His fielding mechanics are very fluid, with a smooth backhand pick-up and sound fundamentals; his overall coordination allows for good positioning on grounders and double-play footwork around the bag. His arm is a 65 grade tool, with plus strength and an ultra-quick release. His accuracy isn’t there yet, but that will improve with repetition, as will his overall fielding ability. He isnt’t a gold-glove level talent at the position, but he should develop into a solid-average or better defensive player. As a runner, he isnt’t a burner, but plays with good game speed and situational awareness. Natural leadership qualities on the field; smart and focused player. Despite age and game experience, has good collection of now tools to go along with lofty projections.
Weaknesses: High ceiling, but huge unknowns thanks to lack of game experience. At the plate, is a more advanced hitter with better mechanics from the left-hand side. When batting right-handed, Profar starts with the same pre-swing noise (he has an idiosyncratic bat wind-up/flip), but stays somewhat busy during the load, with a tendency to open up too early and drop his hands. When he drops his hands, he isn’t able to get good extension and his bat plane is flat, resulting in weaker contact and less power/drive. Despite a good overall approach at the plate (from both sides), Profar is more susceptible to breaking/off-speed pitches from the RH; his swing mechanics make it difficult for him to adjust and make hard contact when he commits too early. This is probably a result of taking more reps against RHP as a LH than anything else. However, it’s a testament to his excellent hand-eye coordination and bat control that Profar is still able to make contact (however weak) when he is badly fooled on a pitch.
On defense, Profar is solid, but often tries to do too much; like most advanced players his age, he tends to play a little fast instead of within the speed of the game. His glove doesn’t have any obvious weakness that repetition won’t cure, but his desire to utilize the flash over the fundamental could be considered a present weakness. His arm strength is a given, but his ability to accurately deliver the ball is below-average at present, mostly a result of rushed throwing mechanics and developmental immaturity.
Conclusion: Didn’t change OFP grade. Profar projects to have average or better tools across the board. At the plate, he already flashes a mature approach and exceptional coordination, which allows him to make regular contact from both sides of the plate. While the now power isn’t there yet, Profar projects to have solid-average to plus power in the future. On defense, Profar has smooth shortstop actions, with soft hands and plus-plus instincts. As a former heavily scouted pitching prospect, Profar obviously has the arm strength to make all the throws from short, with excellent raw arm strength and a quick release.
Profar doesn’t have elite speed, but uses his natural athleticism well, and won’t be a baseclogger, even if he trades some speed for muscle mass during the physical maturation process. Despite the promising tool projections, Profar still has a long way to go to reach his potential. With only a small sample size to work from, Profar’s scouting report will need revision, especially during the next few years of development. Tool-based grade: 57; first-division starter 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. Profar and the rest of the short-season Spokane Indians begin their Northwest League season later today.]