How We Grade Junior College Baseball Prospects
In order to evaluate and categorize hundreds of junior college baseball players every year, I’ve produced a grading component that serves to rank prospects into a broad hierarchy based on current tools and future value. Somewhat similar to professional baseball’s 20-80 scale, I refer to this grading system as Overall Future Potential, or OFP.
Every single scouting report published on this website includes game video, scouting notes, and a numerical OFP rating between 1.00 and 5.00 (mid-point grades allowed; higher is better) that attempts to quantify each player’s skills and value relative to the rest of the JuCo prospects available. This, in turn, makes it easier for coaches to separate players by talent level, and quickly determine which prospects (and which talent levels) are most worth pursuing for their programs.
Of course, scouting each player is far more nuanced than reducing his entire baseball future to a single number, and so the individual reports on each prospect are as specific as they can be. Additionally, my scouting territory is purposely limited to central and southern California, too, in order to get as many looks as possible at a large group of players so I can provide the most detailed, up-to-date evaluations for college coach and MLB scout clients who need to know they are getting the right information about who can play at the next level.
The OFP Grading Process
Scouting reports and tool grades are derived from my year-round observation at games, practices, and workouts, and further supplemented by conversations with coaches, extensive video review, and accumulation of various in-game notes and data points. These grades are my attempt to quantify how valuable a player might be in the future, whether as a four-year program contributor or a pro prospect. Objective, measurable data points like those found in the table below play a role in determining a player’s OFP grade — as you can see with fastball velocity for pitchers, foot speed for position players, and catcher pop times on throws down to second base.
OFP Grade TableOur grading scale to determine Overall Future Potential (OFP) grades for junior college baseball prospects includes these measurable data points that can be lifted from in-game action and practices/workouts in order to help objectively analyze a player's skill set.
|OFP Grade||Fastball||RHH to 1B||LHH to 1B||Pop Time||Level|
|5.00 (23-25)||92+ mph||4.20 sec||4.10 sec||2.05 sec||MLB Draft|
|4.00 (19-22)||89-92||4.30||4.20||2.10||Division 1|
|3.00 (14-18)||86-89||4.40||4.30||2.15||Division 2|
|2.00 (9-13)||83-86||4.50||4.40||2.20||Division 3|
Obviously, the numbers in that table will never come close to telling the entire story of a prospect’s ability and likely future value alone. A full OFP grade takes into account five distinct categories, each individually graded out and analyzed for every player in the prospect database. Each category is scored on its own 0.00 – 5.00 OFP scale for each prospect based on my in-person scouting work and observation. The final OFP grade comes from an equally-weighted average of those categories taken together, along with the context of a player’s intangibles, background, development, level of competition, etc… In turn, this produces a fairly all-encompassing estimation of exactly where a player fits as a potential prospect for four-year programs or the MLB Draft.
For pitchers, the graded categories are Velocity, Arsenal (Repertoire), Command (Control), Delivery (Mechanics), and Execution. For position players, those graded tools are Hit, Power, Field, Throw, and Run.
Deciphering OFP Grades
With the scores of each of those categories taken together, weighted and averaged, the resulting number is a prospect’s OFP grade — my best broad estimation about the player’s current ability and future value based on all the scouting information available to me at the time. As I said, I purposely see players as many times as possible so as to be as certain as possible about their abilities over a larger time-frame. A one-time look could ultimately skew one way or the other if a player is having a particularly good or bad day, and I try to get as many repeat looks at guys as I possibly can over the course of their two-year careers.
Obviously, I don’t suggest college coaches and MLB scouts recruit players off OFP grades alone. As is the case with scouting in general, the system itself is imperfect and based on (highly educated) estimates and guesses. I strongly recommend you read these detailed scouting reports, watch the game videos for each player, consult directly with me for more insight, reach out to the prospect’s coaching staff for other behind-the-scenes information, and generally do all the rest of the due diligence you otherwise would with any prospect.
OFP grades can and should be used in a similar way to how you’d use pro ball’s 20-80 scale — a distilled estimation of value from which to separate players into broad categories, rather than a detailed, be-all and end-all final determination about each prospect. More than anything, OFP is a necessary over-simplification of talent level that represents a jumping-off point for recruiters, scouts, and evaluators to broadly quantify and organize prospects into class by quality. To that end, I believe it greatly simplifies the way in which scouts and recruiting coordinators can look through this site’s prospect database and track prospects, saving you time and energy as you figure out who can play at your level, and who is worthy of pursuing further.
OFP Grading For Each Level And Program
There may be some exceptions within the prospect database, but broadly speaking, I recommend college coaches and pro scouts approach our scouting grades in the following ways:
MLB Scouts — MLB scouts and professional organizations ought to mostly stick with the 5.00 OFP prospects listed in the database. A handful of the 4.00 OFP prospects each year are likely to be MLB Draft-worthy, whether now or after their four-year career, as well. Occasionally, a 3.00 OFP prospect may have one or two notable draft-quality tools (i.e. a pitcher who throws extremely hard but otherwise struggles with command and off-speed pitches, or a position player who is very, very raw but shows off light-tower power, or something like that). Generally speaking, though, a scout’s time will be best-served at the very top of the database focusing on the relatively small handful of pro-quality prospects coming through the junior college ranks each year.
Division 1 Programs — D1 coaches should concentrate most of their scouting efforts on the 5.00, 4.00, and 3.00 OFP levels when it comes to finding guys who can be difference-makers after JuCo ball. I strongly recommend many D1 programs (especially mid-major and smaller programs) do take a look through the 3.00 OFP prospects, as well, as many of those guys tend to have one or two viable D1-quality tools, and/or could work reasonably well as backups, bullpen depth, bench bats, etc., etc., particularly late in the year as late additions for clubs in need of depth.
Division 2 Programs — D2 coaches should spend most of their time on the 3.00 OFP level, with the 2.00 OFP level also being a possibly fruitful recruiting ground for under-the-radar prospects, younger guys to get on early, and steady bench/bullpen pieces that might make good additions for programs seeking to improve depth at various spots. Smaller D2 programs may also be wise to check in on some 1.00 OFP prospects for depth and to fill out a roster, as well.
Division 3 Programs — Particularly aggressive D3 clubs may stretch up into the 3.00 OFP range, but generally speaking, most programs at this level should find viable recruits at the 2.00 OFP level, with certainly some diamonds in the rough possible at 1.00 OFP. The lowest level of the scouting scale, 1.00 OFP, has bench bottom-feeders and the proverbial “organizational depth” guys, but they may be of occasional use to smaller D3 schools seeking depth.
NAIA Programs — NAIA programs are wild cards. I have several current NAIA subscribers that are extremely aggressive, and only go after 4.00 and 5.00 OFP prospects. Other NAIA subscribers more consistently compete against D2 and D3 schools for talent, and find themselves looking through prospects further down in the database. For new NAIA subscribers, be honest with yourself about the programs with which you typically compete with for recruits; if you typically go up against D2 clubs for guys, that’s probably (roughly) going to be the level at which you need to recruit in this prospect database.
Obviously, your mileage here may vary. A very strong D2 program might certainly be able to get aggressive and land a 4.00 OFP prospect from time to time (especially within the context of a prospect’s grades!), or a D1 club might have a very good read on a super-underrated 2.00 OFP prospect and find value there. I’ve generally found those to be exceptions to the rule, though. The broad guidelines above tend to work well for most programs and coaches trying to break down and make sense of our prospect database every year. Hopefully, this will help you save time and make your recruiting efforts far more efficient!