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Saturday, September 17, 2011
Explaining OFP in scouting

By Dave Gershman

Overall future potential or OFP is a substantial ingredient in almost all scouting reports. I’ve used OFP as an ending point in many of my reports, and while that’s worked out in my favor, I’ve also had to deal with the its flaws. However, OFP does have value and is used by a majority of baseball teams. It has been proved useful when measuring a player’s upside and ceiling, so it’s a key diagnostic tool used by scouts.

First, what is OFP and how does it correlate with scouting reports? Each and every scout, whether a pro or area scout, has assignments. Scouts have to file reports on all, if not most of the players they see. A scout who goes to see Bobby Bopper play on some distant diamond will head home shortly thereafter and get writing, as his scouting director generally requests all reports sooner rather than later. As he compiles the summary, which is generally around 100-300 words, he’ll also give that player individual tool grades based on his current and future projected abilities. A scout compiles OFP by adding up all five future tool grades (hitting, power, speed, throwing and fielding), and then dividing that total by five. Scouts can then adjust the OFP by ten or so points if they please.

As a result, because of the way they’re put together, the OFPs aren’t tough to get. But all scouts have a certain program on their computer in which the adjusted OFP is formulated. We’ll get to that later, but first let’s finish up with simple OFP. A player’s OFP will wind up in the 20-80 range, the same grading range applied to his tools. When most scouting directors receive a report from a scout, the OFP will determine the role and placement for that player’s future.

OFP can be a bit misleading, however. As one scout said “OFP is more flawed than wins and losses.” The main reason for that is while the grades each have their weight (for example, hitting is so much more valuable than throwing, and understandably so), the numbers still remain the same. So let’s say you have two outfield corner prospects. One of them projects to be a 70 on both his hit and power tools while he’s a 30 on speed, defense and throwing. That’s a fantastic prospect, but what if a player projects to be a 30 hitter, has 30 power and 30 speed but has 70 defense and arm? Unadjusted, these two players’ OFPs will be the same.

As a result, most organizations now use a technique called “roles.” Instead of concluding player evaluations based on OFPs, they actually peg a player’s future role with his respective team. Those tend to work out, but can go for naught if the team acquires a long-term player at the same position, or if part of the player’s game suggests a potential position switch. Roles aren’t used by every team but they provide more substance than OFP, especially in cases like the example I’ve suggested. Adjusted OFP makes more sense, as it not only determines the OFP based on the fair or unfair grades but also makes the position matter. If you have a first baseman with lots of speed and minimal power who has the same OFP as an almost identical player who plays the outfield, the former will have a lower adjusted OFP since first base is primarily a power position.

Scouting takes its own specialized role when evaluating talent, especially for the lower levels of the minors or amateur ball. Tool grades provide lots of fair and useful data, and often work out in the team’s favor. But they still don’t become conversation-enders when used, and that’s a problem. The human eye is probably the most valuable tool that scouts possess, and until the idea behind something like OFP is improved that’s how scouting will remain.

Dave Gershman is the author of Marlins Daily, an affiliate of the SweetSpot network.