Los Angeles, Calif. —— In an effort to more efficiently categorize a large and ever-growing number of junior college baseball prospects, we’ve added a component to our scouting content that we believe will better help to funnel the right prospects to the right college programs: Overall Future Potential (OFP).
It’s not our term, of course. Overall future potential (in some pro organizations it’s called ‘FV’, or ‘future value’) has been in use in the professional baseball scouting world for some time; FanGraphs writer Kiley McDaniel explains it very well from the pro perspective in this enlightening post from 2014. What we’re trying to do here is broadly adapt it for our use scouting junior college baseball prospects, so as to provide four-year college coaches and recruiting coordinators with a very simple way to filter their prospect searches on this site and find players with the talent level (overall future potential) that will fit for their program’s level of competition.
For every junior college player we scout here, then, we will not only provide game video, full scouting notes, and our analysis on their potential projection beyond JuCo, but also a numerical rating reflecting all that (from 1-5) in one of these five very (purposely) broad categories:
- Division I Starter/MLB Draft (5 OFP)
- Division I Contributor (4 OFP)
- Fringe Division I/Solid Division II (3 OFP)
- Small School (Division II/III/NAIA) Contributor (2 OFP)
- Fringe Small School/Depth (1 OFP)
Using OFP for JuCo Baseball recruits
As you might suspect, those five OFP levels ought to be seen as overly broad. Scouting each individual player is far more nuanced than reducing his future to one single-digit number alone, and our in-depth scouting notes on each prospect are as specific as possible to account for that. But we believe this 1-5 OFP scale is a good place to start in separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, when a four-year college coach or recruiting coordinator is faced with cutting down thousands of prospects in our database to a handful of high-follow recruits on a pref list. And while the names of each OFP grade may tell the story a bit about where we see a prospect’s likely future, it’s critical to explain those five grades a bit more so coaches/recruiters can better understand where we’re coming from when we rank a player and how that may apply to each of your programs:
Division I Starter/MLB Draft (5 OFP)
The 5 OFP grade is reserved for high-profile junior college baseball prospects with ‘plus’ or above-average tools and an advanced approach to the game. These are the guys who are no doubt, bona fide, can’t miss Division I prospects —many of whom we see as potential MLB Draft/pro prospects, as well, whether now during their junior college years of after more refinement at the four-year level. These are the guys that Division I coaches can safely assume are talented enough to plug into an everyday role in the field, or a rotation/high-leverage role on the mound, and immediately contribute — or, are guys with such high ceilings/upside that they’re well worth taking up a Division I roster spot. Many of these prospects may be Division I kick-backs seeking a second opportunity at that level. Think of a 6’4″ right-handed pitcher working in the low 90s with OK command and decent feel for several average/above-average off-speed pitches for strikes — a high-profile, advanced prospect. As you might suspect, a 5 OFP grade won’t be handed out quite as often, considering the relatively unique package of tools and traits necessary here, but when we do slap this grade on a player, it’s meant to convey that the prospect is a potential standout with real, high-end tools. To use a real-life comp here: in 2017, I would have given a 5 OFP to Saddleback College RHP Tanner Brubaker, who was drafted this past June by the Tampa Bay Rays and is now pitching for UC Irvine.
Division I Contributor (4 OFP)
The 4 OFP grade is slightly more common than the elusive and elite 5 OFP, this one reserved for junior college baseball prospects with the tools present to realistically give them a chance to succeed as Division I contributors. Players at this grade have the tools to legitimately compete for significant time in one way or another at the Division I level after junior college, while boasting enough of a track record in junior college for Division I programs to make a serious commitment in recruiting them. All players listed at this OFP are solid bets to succeed in some capacity as Division I recruits, whether as starters or in impactful bench/bullpen roles, even if they never reach pro ball; strong and aggressive Division II programs may even be advised to try to make a play on some of these guys depending on the specific situation. They’re not pro prospects (yet, in some cases), but they are solid, safe Division I-quality ballplayers. In 2017, I would have given a 4 OFP to Mt. San Antonio College shortstop Anthony Walters, as well as Cypress College catcher Dominic Campeau, and Santa Barbara City College IF/OF John Jensen — all solid, talented Division I recruits who aren’t quite (yet) bona fide pro prospects/standouts, but are at the very least highly likely to contribute positively to their new Division I programs.
Fringe Division I/Solid Division II (3 OFP)
Prospects listed as 3 OFP recruits are right on the fringe to become possible Division I contributors. Some of these prospects may exhibit one tool or attribute that is currently or projected to be Division I-quality by the end of their junior college careers, and so our best guess at evaluating upside comes into play. Other prospects in this group will show off average/slightly below-average tools across the board, the sum of which is solid enough to make one wonder whether they could succeed at the Division I level in a best-case scenario if given the chance. Most prospects at the 3 OFP level are likely ticketed to contribute regularly for Division II programs, or strong Division III/NAIA programs. From a Division I perspective, these prospects may never contribute significantly, but there’s enough upside here that a 3 OFP might be worth taking the chance as a sleeper/under-the-radar guy who could one day blossom into something more. It’s not a sure thing, but there’s upside here — often enough for a Division I program to take the chance. Similarly, high-profile/aggressive Division II/III/NAIA programs should clean up at this OFP grade. In 2017, I would have slapped a 3 OFP on Santa Ana College left-handed pitcher Nathan Flores.
Small School (Division II/III/NAIA) Contributor (2 OFP)
Those listed as 2 OFP prospects lack the projectable tools and high upside of more high-profile recruits, but these guys nevertheless have some traits or qualities that would be attractive to smaller four-year programs for any number of reasons listed in each player’s individual scouting report. Prospects at this level may lack the height, or velocity, or run times, or projectable size of those at a higher OFP grade, but they get the job done for their junior college program consistently and proficiently enough to know their playing days won’t be over after the two-year level. Mid-size and smaller Division II/Division III/NAIA schools will clean up here, while periodically taking a chance and raiding the higher OFP levels on a case-by-case basis. The guys listed as 2 OFP prospects may not be standouts, but they can play the game, and there’s a reasonable expectation that they will have the tools and ability to compete for smaller four-year programs after the completion of their junior college baseball careers.
Fringe Small School/Depth (1 OFP)
As pro baseball uses the term “organizational depth” to describe the ten to twenty space fillers on every minor league affiliate roster each season that float alongside the big-money prospects, so too will we use “fringe small school/depth” and our 1 OFP designation to qualify those guys at the junior college level. Prospects at this level haven’t (or haven’t yet) shown the ability to succeed consistently against junior college competition or better, and as such, it must be made clear that their attractiveness to four-year schools will likely be limited. That doesn’t mean they won’t play at the four-year level at all, of course; just as org depth guys in the minor leagues still occasionally break through to the big leagues here and there, 1 OFP prospects certainly have a shot at playing beyond junior college, too. This grade may well be handed out to quite a few first-year players every year, only to see the same player come around a year later having developed significantly better tools that may now earn him a 2 OFP or 3 OFP grade. When that happens, we’ll update our grade; until then, as with all of our overall future potential numbers, the 1 OFP grade isn’t written in stone but rather it exists an honest and consistent device to more efficiently and properly evaluate junior college baseball prospects from all levels.
Quantifying an OFP grade in a report
Much of the process in determining a player’s overall future potential comes from an imperfect combination of first-hand scouting observation, conversations with a prospect’s coaches, review of game video(s) to pick up on tools and tendencies, and an amount of (educated, though obviously subjective) guess-work involved in trying to determine what type of player that prospect may become in a year or two. But there are certain quantifiable, objective, and measurable traits that go into determining an OFP as well, and we’ve put together a simple table categorizing those tools and traits in a broad way:
|5 OFP||89-92 mph||< 4.2||< 4.1||< 6.7||sub 2.0||Division I Starter/MLB Draft|
|4 OFP||86-89 mph||4.2 - 4.3||4.1 - 4.2||6.7 - 6.9||2.0 - 2.1||Division I Contributor|
|3 OFP||83-86 mph||4.3 - 4.4||4.2 - 4.3||6.9 - 7.1||2.1 - 2.2||Fringe Division I/Solid Division II|
|2 OFP||80-83 mph||4.4 - 4.5||4.3 - 4.4||7.1 - 7.3||2.2 - 2.3||Small School Contributor|
|1 OFP||77-80 mph||> 4.5||> 4.4||> 7.3||> 2.3||Fringe Small School/Depth|
It should go without saying, but obviously even this table will not tell the whole story about a player’s future. An outfielder may have measurable, elite 5 OFP foot speed, but completely lack other tools such that he’s an overall 2 OFP or 3 OFP prospect; similarly, a pitcher may throw just 83 mph but possess such advanced off-speed command, intangibles, and stuff that his whole package comes across as a 3 or 4 OFP who is far more advanced than his available measurables would indicate. That’s where the actual scouting reports come in, as we’ll be able to better write up context on why we gave a certain OFP grade to a prospect, and how we got there. But for us, that OFP table is just another tool in the toolbox — a simple and reliable rubric set based on thousands of data points collected from junior college prospects as a way to broadly, easily separate different classes of player. If you’re using the overall future potential grade to begin your scouting search on this website, you’re doing things right (i.e., “here are a handful of 5 OFP prospects and a handful of 4 OFP prospects that we found who are attractive to us; now let’s bear down on each scouting report and really figure out which ones would fit best in our program.”). If you’re using OFP to end your scouting search, you’re probably missing the point (i.e., “Let’s pick this guy just because Baseball Census has him listed as a 4 OFP, as opposed to this other guy we really liked that they only have as a 3 OFP.”)
Obviously, every OFP number is ultimately a highly educated guess, and as such, from time to time, we’re going to see prospects differently than you. We’ll be lower on certain guys than you are, and higher on others; some guys on which we slap a 2 OFP will develop late, exceed our expectations, and wind up at Division I programs. Some solid 4 OFP Division I candidates will regress and fall back down a grade or two for whatever reason; it goes without saying that baseball can be a particularly tough and unforgiving sport in that way, and scouting 18- and 19-year-old kids is an imperfect science, to put it mildly. But as we see a prospect multiple times across his junior college career, and the player develops (or regresses) significantly, we’ll update the overall future potential grade on their scouting report accordingly, and tell you why and how we came to that conclusion. You’ll be able to see both old and new OFP grades listed alongside all the video, data, and scouting notes, so you can broadly understand the context of the prospect’s development path during junior college, thus providing at least an educated guess about where they may be headed next.
Where/How To Find OFP
On every positional database page, in each sortable table where we list junior college baseball prospects on the site, you can now see OFP listed as one of the ordered columns towards the right side of the data table. Here’s a screenshot of our class of 2019 right-handed pitchers data table for example:
You can then toggle the table and sort it by OFP grade, high-to-low and low-to-high, and immediately parse out classes of players to save time in searching for which group of guys might be the best fit for your program. Division I coaches and recruiting coordinators will no doubt seek out the appropriate 5 OFP and 4 OFP candidates, with maybe a few 3 OFP prospects thrown in as potential buy-low sleepers and under-the-radar additions. Larger Division II and NAIA programs will be making a stretch at 4 OFP, but a solid commitment at 3 OFP; smaller school Division II/III/NAIA programs would be wise to search through prospects listed at or generally below 3 OFP. You get the picture.
We also list and write up an overall future potential grade for each prospect right on the prospect’s player page. So go, and use this as a broadly better way to sort and contextualize junior college baseball prospects and potential recruits. And again, just remember as you use it: the OFP grade is intended to be a jumping off point into our junior college baseball scouting world, and not a be-all and end-all evaluation number that tells you everything you should know about a prospect.
See you on the scouting trail…
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