We could write for pages and pages about scouting and the ways in which we could use it for this web site, but instead we’ll just cover the specific way we’ll evaluate players on this site and for further information refer you to the links in the sidebar on the main page and these more in-depth and focused scouting overviews:
1. Baseball America’s Scouting Dictionary by Alan Schwarz
3. CalLeaguers.com explains their scouting reports
4. Future Redbirds’ Prospect Primer
For the purposes of this site, we will evaluate players using the standard scouting method, the 20-80 scale and the Adjusted OFP measure.
The 20-80 scale is universally used (despite murky origins) to judge baseball talent where 50 is considered major league average, and it is judged by the scout as a present and future grade for each tool for the player. Obviously, the gap between present and future gets smaller as the player gets older. The tools for a position player are hitting, hitting for power, speed, defense, and throwing arm, classically known as the 5 tools. For a pitcher, the tools are the command, movement and speed of each of their pitches. There are other things to consider such as breaking hitting and fielding down into it’s components, the player’s makeup (mental approach and character, among other things), and especially today, the financial aspects.
There is a steep bell curve in the major leagues for each tool, regressed to the average grade of 50. There are about as many 45s (below-average) as 55s (above-average) for any given tool in the big leagues. A grade of 60 is known as “plus”, a grade of 70 is known as “plus-plus”, and a perfect grade of 80 is simply known as “80″ because it’s so rare. There are only a few players in the world with any 80 tools, other than possibly running speed and fastball velocity–they are the two most common, but still not that common at all. Since so many players’ tools fall close to 50, many scouts use fringe-average and solid-average to describe things on the negative and positive side of average, respectively, that aren’t good or bad enough to be considered 45 or 55.
There are also certain profiles for each position and role on a team. For example, most first basemen are bigger guys that could only play first base, are slow and not especially good defenders or throwers, but have a very good bat and excellent power. When a player doesn’t fit a profile for any role, he is usually between the required skillset for two positions and is known as a “tweener.” These players may be very talented and of All-Star quality up until the major leagues, but once they get there do not have much value without improving.
Once a scout has broken down each tool and graded it using 5-point increments of the 20-80 scale, the future grades for pertinent tools are taken and averaged to get an unadjusted OFP number (OFP is short for overall future potential). The scout uses this number as a guide, and adjusts it up or down based on his judgement, taking every factor into account, to put his opinion of the player into one number, used for quickly ranking players and sharing a very short opinion. This number is the most important one on the scouting report, and it is called the adjusted OFP.
These adjusted OFPs help scouts put players into their potential profiles and major league teams give their scouts a detailed “grade card” as a guide. While we both have access to multiple teams’ grade cards, they all differ slightly, but have the same basic idea. There are current and future groups, along with an adjusted OFP (AOFP) for each player. Here is the system we will use on this site, and note the differences between pro and amateur grading, as we learn a lot about a player in a few professional years that changes the scale:
60-80 AOFP: Group A
Pro: Elite frontline starter, Top-5 closer, Superstar, Perennial All-Star and MVP candidate
Amateur: Top 5 to 10 picks in the draft
56-59 AOFP: Group B
Pro: Solid #3 starter, Solid closer, Sometime All-Star, Solid, Above-Average Everyday Player
Amateur: Mid-to-Late 1st and Sandwich round.
52-55 AOFP: Group C
Pro: 4th and 5th starters, good set-up men, fringe closers, top situational relievers, average everyday player
Amateur: 2nd to 4th rounds
48-51 AOFP: Group D
Pro: Average middle and long relievers, solid situational relievers, backup positional players, platoon players
Amateur: 5th to 12th rounds
45-47 AOFP: Group E
Pro: Up/down roster fillers, most LOOGYs, 25th men, versatile position players or bats with no power/defensive value
Amateur: 13th to 20th round
40-44 AOFP : Group F
Pro: Organizational Player, will not contribute materially at major league level
Amateur: 20th to 50th round
With each of these groups, there is a + and - to indicate the range in which the player falls. For instance, a young big leaguer like Ryan Zimmerman could be called a B- now and B+ future if you forecast a present OFP of 56-57 and a future AOFP of 58-59. And yes, we realize the present OFP should be called something like OPA (overall present ability), but it just isn’t, so get over it.
There is also a group G (not a prospect) and group P (current prospect). Group G will probably never be used here as we won’t waste our time going to see and write-up a player that is below a 40 OFP, or at least we hope we won’t. Group P stands for prospect and will be used frequently as the present group for prospects, as you might guess. The reason this group exists is because many prospects will have present OFPs that correlate to a group that indicates MLB readiness given their tools. This is a way to say that regardless of the tools, they cannot contribute at the MLB level, whether it be maturity, makeup, command, plate discipline, or whatever normal things that separate low minors players and raw prospects from major leaguers.
Also, while we won’t list them here because many scouts have subtle disagreements about them, each tool has a grade guide for it, such as roughly 7.00 in the 60-yard dash converting to 50 speed or 4.30 from home to first from the right-hand side being considered 50.