Ranking prospects can sometimes be an exercise in futility, especially when you write for a Detroit Tigers blog. Some players fail, others progress, and some guys just pop up out of nowhere. Our new practice of allowing voters to select the top prospects in the organization allows for a larger margin of error, but there are still players that get snubbed. This year's honorable mentions list consists of ten prospects listed in alphabetical order. You will recognize seven of them from the prospect polls we have been running over the past few weeks, along with three more names I thought were worthy of a mention.
Anthony Castro, right-handed pitcher
Castro is a Venezuelan flamethrower who impressed scouts in his stateside debut in 2014 after making opponents look foolish as a teenager in the Venezuelan Summer League. Castro's numbers in the Gulf Coast League weren't great -- he allowed a 4.10 ERA and had a 1.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 59 1/3 innings -- but he can already throw 95 miles per hour as a 19 year old. He also has a couple of decent offspeed pitches in his changeup and slider, the latter of which will wreak havoc on right-handed hitters at some level. Jordan Gorosh labeled Castro a potential #4 starter last July, and later blew him up as the #1 "prospect on the rise" in the Tigers system earlier this month.
Harold Castro, second baseman
A near-clone of Betancourt, Castro's playing time has been lacking over the past few years. While he is believed to have more upside than some of his peers, Castro had a career-high 315 plate appearances between Single-A West Michigan and Advanced-A Lakeland last season. Like Betancourt, Castro has shown a knack for putting the bat on the ball. He hit .286 last season but only walked 14 times, resulting in a .327 on-base percentage. With more tools than some of the other infield prospects in the system, Castro could shoot up the rankings if he has a strong season in 2015.
Daniel Fields, outfielder
A Detroit native, Fields has seemingly been in the organization since the Tigers' last World Series championship. In reality, Fields was drafted out of University of Detroit Jesuit High School in 2010. He has steadily progressed his way up the minor league system, and a solid 2013 season at Double-A Erie put him on the Tigers' radar for 2014. However, a slow start at Triple-A Toledo and a broken hand resulted in what some would consider a lost season for Fields. Now 24 years old, Fields projects to be a fourth or fifth outfielder who can competently play all three defensive positions.
Steven Fuentes, third baseman
Fuentes is a 20-year-old who broke out at the plate last season, hitting .295/.356/.475 in 222 plate appearances in the New York-Penn League last season. This caught the eye of John Sickels, who ranked him the Tigers' 13th best prospect on his top 20 rankings at Minor League Ball. A great athlete who tapped into some of his considerable potential last year, Fuentes is a bit of a lottery ticket. He won't be on the Tigers' radar for a long time, but another big season could see him rocket up the organizational rankings in 2016.
Chad Green, right-handed pitcher
The only player left on MLB.com's top 20 Tigers prospect list not yet in our poll, Green is yet another large power arm from a big-time college program. Louisville's former ace put up a 3.11 ERA and 4.46 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 130 1/3 innings at Single-A West Michigan last season, numbers on par with the rest of that excellent staff. Like just about every pitching prospect in the system, Green's fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s with the potential for plus velocity in short stints. Unlike some of the others, he doesn't have a great secondary offering to fall back on yet. If he struggles to develop his slider and changeup at higher levels, he may be forced to pick one and move to the bullpen.
Josh Laxer, right-handed pitcher
A ninth round pick out of Ole Miss in 2014, Laxer put up some solid numbers working in relief at short-season Connecticut. He struck out 27 batters to just five walks in 30 innings and held opponents to a .642 OPS. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a developing breaking ball, Laxer is a true reliever who could move quickly through the system. Still 21 years old, he has late inning potential, and full season ball should be a good test for him this year.
Adam Ravenelle, right-handed pitcher
The above description also holds true for Ravenelle, a right-handed pitcher from Vanderbilt who can touch 95 miles per hour with his fastball. A fourth round pick by the Tigers in 2014, Ravenelle only pitched four innings after being drafted due to a finger injury. Ravenelle was a reliever in college, but the Tigers are hopeful that he can add a changeup to his potent fastball-slider arsenal and make the jump to the rotation. Like most of the other pitchers in the system, Ravenelle profiles as a back-end starter or middle reliever at the MLB level.
Zach Shepherd, third baseman
Shepherd is a 19-year-old Australian who hit .301/.373/.497 in 201 plate appearances for the Gulf Coast League Tigers last season. While looking at GCL stats is largely a fool's errand, there simply aren't that many prospects in the Tigers' system who have hit that well at any level. He is expected to move to the outfield at some point in his minor league career, but he projects to be a solid hitter with a decent eye for the strike zone. He is still little more than a lottery ticket at this point, but an interesting one at that.
Jose Valdez, right-handed pitcher
A mainstay on the Tigers' 40 man roster for the past few years, Valdez still has yet to make his MLB debut. He struggled at times in 2014, allowing a 4.11 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 57 innings for Double-A Erie. Valdez is capable of hitting the high 90s on the radar gun with his fastball, but has the prerequisite command issues that come with that kind of velocity. He has struck out over a batter per inning in the minors with his two-pitch arsenal, but has also walked over five per nine innings. If he displays more control, he could finally crack the big leagues in 2015.
Shane Zeile, catcher
The nephew of former MLB catcher Todd Zeile, Shane possesses the requisite high baseball IQ of a player with his baseball bloodlines. He was drafted by the Tigers in the 5th round of the 2014 draft out of UCLA, where he only played catcher for two years. He is a raw product defensively, but possesses a solid line-drive swing in the batter's box. A poor offensive showing in the Gulf Coast League nonwithstanding, Zeile should spend most of 2015 in extended spring training honing his craft before he suits up for the Connecticut Tigers. He's a bit of a lottery ticket, but could turn into a solid big league catcher if any of his uncle's talent has rubbed off on him.