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: Wilmer Font
Birthplace: La Guiria, Venezuela
HT/WT: 6' 4", 230 lb.
Arm Action: Fluid and fast.
Delivery/Mechanical characteristics: Some mechanical inconsistencies; stride length will vary; some balance issues/awkwardness; low three-quarters delivery (often slots in standard three-quarters).
Physical Description: Big projectable frame, with broad shoulders and long limbs; strong, but doesn’t seem overly athletic and body doesn’t possess lean muscle. Body has potential to hold extra weight, which could present a problem after physical maturity is achieved.
Abilities: Easy FB velocity, with ability to sit comfortably in the 92-95 mph range; can touch the upper-90s (even hit triple digits) in short bursts; the ability to flash 80-grade velocity makes Font an attractive option out of the bullpen, should the development of a starter’s arsenal not take place. Arm action is quick and fluid, allowing FB to sneak up on hitters and play up beyond already impressive raw velocity. Uses FB as main weapon; when command is on, can spot pitch low in the zone with some natural weight and run to the arm-side. Control is currently more advanced than command, which limits the overall effectiveness of the pitch. Despite lower arm slot, uses height and angle to create good downhill plane to FB.
CU is promising, with good velocity separation from FB and some tumble and fading movement away from LHP. Thanks to consistent arm speed, and a late hand-break, Font is able to use deception to his advantage, which makes his CU a future plus pitch and a nice complement to his FB. While his CB often looks more like a slow-slurve, the pitch does flash above-average at times, and has the potential to develop into an average major league offering. When he can stay on top of the pitch, the CB will feature a two-plane break, with some depth. At this point of his development, showing the ability to flash a good breaker, regardless of the consistency of the present pitch, is promising. Font has a durable, projectable frame, that allows him to hold velocity deep into games and chew innings. Displays good work ethic and maturity, and overall feel for pitching has improved dramatically over the past year.
Weaknesses: Despite impressive raw FB velocity, Font’s overall FB grade is pulled down by below-average present command, and only average command projection. Release point inconsistencies will push the FB up in the zone, offering hitters a single-plane view and better contact rates. Font can get too FB dependent at times, removing sequence and deception from the arsenal and allowing hitters too much comfort in their approach. Lacks plus breaking ball; curve will flash plus at times, but often breaks too early out of hand and looks more like a slow slurve that can be recognized early. When Font can’t stay on top of the pitch, it isn’t much of a weapon against RH, limiting the range of his overall repertoire. It’s been stated before that Font’s arm slot and arm action are more conducive for a slider, and I have to agree with this assessment. It’s not necessary to strip the curve from the arsenal at this time. However, I think a hard slider would be a natural fit, and a pitch that would play very well with his fastball.
His CU is promising, but still inconsistent, thanks to release point variations. Despite having a projectable, workhorse frame, Font’s body is a current weakness; he lacks elite athleticism and will need to monitor extra weight as he continues to physically mature. Font can look awkward at times, especially when attempting to field his position, but given his present body/maturity, its not surprising that Font experiences some coordination issues. While slowly evolving from a thrower into a pitcher, at the present, Font can still look very raw and underdeveloped, especially when it comes to pitch sequence and situation. Needs to hold runners better and improve time to plate; clocked in the 1.6- to 1.8-second range on numerous occasions thanks to a high/delayed leg lift.
Conclusion: Raised OFP grade two points based on potential of fastball (raw velocity grade could be 80 out of bullpen) and advanced feel for change-up. Font possesses a rare fastball, that has been clocked as high as 100 mph, and will routinely sit in the 92-96 range as a starter. His CU, a pitch with plus projection, is a nice compliment to his present FB and features above-average tumble and fade. His breaking ball is currently below average, but will flash promise, although it remains to be seen if the pitch can become a consistent offering, or if a slider would be a better fit for his arm action/slot.
His current command is below average and lacks above-average projection, but he does have some feel for control and should eventually become an average strike-thrower. His overall approach still needs refinement, but the maturation process from thrower to pitcher is evident and encouraging. His present body leaves him a bit awkwardly coordinated, and he will need to stay focused on his overall conditioning as he continues to physically mature. Tool-based grade: 58; solid-average No. 2 starter at the major league level or frontline set-up man/second tier closer.