8/27/2013 8:14 P.M. ET
Tigers struggling to keep teams from stealing bases
By Jason Beck and Bobby Nightengale / MLB.com
DETROIT -- The Tigers have thrown out only 19 percent of potential basestealers, the lowest mark in the American League. In fact, opposing teams have successfully stolen 17 straight bases against Detroit, with only one runner picked off in that span.
Manager Jim Leyland said there are several reasons behind that problem, including pitchers not doing a good enough job holding runners close to first base.
"We're trying to get guys to vary their times," Leyland said. "Hold the ball a little bit more. But sometimes guys just can't get under 1.4, 1.5 [seconds in their delivery]. If they go home and the guy goes at the right time, they're going to beat it."
The Royals, who lead the Major Leagues with 115 stolen bases entering Tuesday, swiped nine bags in a recent five-game series against Detroit. The Tigers have surrendered 105 stolen bases this season, which is tied for the second-highest total in the Majors. The Red Sox have allowed 110, while the Angels also have given up 105.
Ultimately, it's a balancing act for teams to weigh how much focus they want their pitchers to have on baserunners versus the hitters at the plate. The Tigers give signs for their pickoff moves, so pitchers don't have to split their concentration between the two.
"They all are capable [of holding runners better]. I think a lot of it's a mental thing," Leyland said. "It's hard to break habits. In college, a lot of times it didn't matter because they struck the next three guys out. Up here, it becomes a little different."
Travis, five other prospects to play in AFL
DETROIT -- While Tigers fans are looking for postseason baseball in October, there will be more fall work for some of Detroit's prospects. The Arizona Fall League released its rosters on Tuesday, and they include breakout Tigers prospect and Class A Lakeland second baseman Devon Travis, who will get his shot against some of the better pitching prospects in the game.
Travis will be one of a half-dozen Tigers prospects on the Mesa Solar Sox, whose coaching staff will include former Tigers hurler and Lakeland pitching coach Mike Maroth. Also going to Arizona is Class A West Michigan closer Corey Knebel, Double-A Erie outfielder Tyler Collins, SeaWolves reliever Will Clinard and Triple-A Toledo lefty Kyle Lobstein. Detroit will name one more player to the roster before the season opens Oct. 8.
Travis' season began with a Spring Training impression as an extra player in Detroit's Grapefruit League games. The former Florida State second baseman took that momentum to West Michigan and hit up a storm in the Midwest League, batting .352 with 17 doubles, six homers, 42 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 77 games.
He earned a midseason promotion to the Florida State League and hasn't let up, hitting .330 with eight doubles, five homers and 22 RBIs in 47 games. He has gone 6-for-7 stealing bases. A matchup in the Fall League was the next logical step.
"I think it's going to be a very natural step for him," Tigers player development director Dave Owen said Tuesday. "What a great year he's put together."
Knebel will become the second Tiger in five years to go to the AFL the same year he's drafted. Andy Oliver did it in 2009. Knebel, however, is in a different situation. He came into the Tigers' system as a reliever, despite initial indications the Tigers would stretch him into a starter, and he'll continue work out of the bullpen in Mesa.
The formula has worked well so far. The former University of Texas closer entered Tuesday having allowed just two earned runs on 12 hits over 28 innings, striking out 38 batters and recording 13 saves.
"He came on after the Draft and has done everything he's supposed to do," Owen said. "He's shown he's ready for a challenge."
Collins will get a chance to work on some of the hitting adjustments instructor Bruce Fields and Erie hitting coach Gerald Perry made with him this summer with his swing and his plate discipline. The Spring Training standout has struggled to a .240 average with the SeaWolves, but his 18 home runs and 74 RBIs easily top his previous bests as a pro.
Lobstein spent most of the spring in camp with the Tigers as a Rule 5 pick, then went to Erie when the Tigers worked out a trade with the Rays to acquire his full rights. He's 12-7 with a 3.40 ERA between Erie and Toledo, including two complete games.
Castellanos named International League All-Star
DETROIT -- The Tigers' top prospect, outfielder Nick Castellanos, has succeeded at every level he's played baseball. He can add another award to his stack of achievements after being named an International League Postseason All-Star on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old is the youngest IL postseason All-Star and the first outfielder from Triple-A Toledo to earn the honor since Jeff Frazier in 2010. Castellanos is batting .275 with 16 home runs and 71 RBIs at Toledo this year with seven games remaining in the team's season.
Castellanos leads the league with 78 runs scored and is second with 140 hits and 36 doubles.
"He should be coming out as a junior in college. To do what he's done each day at this level, at that age, is impressive," Toledo manager Phil Nevin said earlier this month. "I'm tired of people trying to compare him to [Mike] Trout and [Bryce] Harper and guys that have come up early. There's different development for different guys. He's going to be just as good as these guys, in my opinion."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.