(Photo via the Flickr Creative Commons, seen here)
The majority of Division-1 baseball programs hold a ‘scout day’ during their fall ball season. During ‘scout day,’ MLB amateur scouts are encouraged to watch the team conduct many drills including running the 60-yard dash, pop time, and velocity drills. The scouts that do attend, grade out each of the players’ skills on a 20-80 grading scale with 20 representing a grade of a non-prospect, 80 signifying a Hall of Fame-caliber grade, and 50 representing MLB average. Below is what each grade represents for hitters:
70-80 grades are used interchangeably to represent players that are elite and are more than likely to become a once-in-a-generation talent. Many scouts believe that they should never give an 80 grade because it means that the player they are scouting is being compared to legendary players. There will be a minimum of one MVP season. 80-grade skills include hitting over 39 home runs with a .930+ OPS if the hitter hits for power. If the hitter possesses more of a contact-speed combination, skills could include 50+ SBs. Pitchers at this grade throw an average fastball 98+ mph, with abnormally high strikeout and low walk rates. K/9 rates are usually over 9.8 and BB/9 rates are below 1.2.
65 grades are given out to talent when players are potential perennial All-Star candidates. For hitters, these grades are given out to players with a minimum of plus offensive tools and average defensive tools. Starting pitchers at this level have three average or better pitches with at least plus command of one plus pitch. A 65-grade reliever will be an impact closer.
60 grades are given to players that have plus tools. Hitters average out to having plus tools and are multiple time All-Stars. They typically have a .770-.810 OPS and hit 21-26 home runs. Contact/speed hitters normally steal 20-27 bases. Pitchers and this grade throw an average around 94 mph with roughly a 2-2.3 BB/9.
55 is a grade given to players who are above average and have the potential to become an occasional All-Star. Hitters given this grade are typically above average both offensively and defensively. They tend to hit roughly .270-.280 with 17-20 HRs. It is also not uncommon hitters to have an OPS of .730-.770. Pitchers in this role are typically a number three starter or set up man that could potentially close. They will tend to throw up to an average of 93 mph and will average around 7.6-8 K/9.
50 grades are for players who are average MLB players and contribute regularly to a team. Hitters at this level may have some imperfection in their tools or nothing that is outstanding. Starting pitchers tend to have good stuff with lesser command or vice versa. Relievers at this grade could fill the role of a ‘middle reliever’ or ‘situational reliever.’
45-graded players are typically hitters that are fringe-average and potential utility roles. These are players who typically hit .245-.260 with a potential to steal seven to nine bases a year. Pitchers are either spot starters or long relief. They tend to throw roughly around 91 mph with a 2.9-3.2 BB/9.
40 is a player whose skillset is just above that of an organizational minor leaguer. This player is known as a ‘AAAA’ player who could get called up and get sent down multiple times during a season. For a hitter, this type of player could contribute in one area. They typically will hit around seven to nine HRs a year and could have a .610-.650 OPS. Catchers’ pop times are usually just over two seconds. Pitchers at this level could fill short-term voids in the major leagues. They tend to average around 90 mph and throw 6-6.5 K/9.
35 is what represents the level where players are known as organizational players. These are players that tend to stick around the minor league system for a while and may make it all the way up to Triple-A. However, these types of players will never see a single game at the major league level.
20-grade skills are equivalent to a non-prospect with the highest level that the player with those skills making it to Double-A. Hitters that have under a .205 batting average and have a 4.5 home-to-first-time would be included at this level. With the exception of sidearm or submarine pitchers, pitchers at this level are not able to throw harder than 87 mph.
The grades 25, 30, and 75 are very rarely used in scouting as it is seen as the scout giving those grades as being very indecisive. Analytics are becoming more inclusive in the decision process of how a scout creates an overall grade on a player. For example, a scout may only see a player a few times during a season and have to give the scouting director a grade based on what he or she saw. The scout could figure out if the player had an abnormally good or bad series depending on the data. Thus, regardless if someone is in an analytics department, or in a scouting department, they will need all available materials to create a more holistic view of the player they are looking at.