MLB has announced Monday afternoon that several experimental rules are coming to the minor leagues starting at the beginning of the 2022 season. The four rules that are going to be implemented are pitch timers, larger bases, defensive positioning, and the automated balls and strike system or “ABS” for short.
Pitch Timer: An on-field timer will be used at all full-season affiliates. The reasoning for this rule is to ensure a crisp and fast-paced game. Both the batter and the pitcher must be ready in a certain set time. Pitchers will have extra time if there are runners on base. If a pitcher steps off or attempts a pickoff three times in the same at-bat without recording an out, he risks automatic base runner advancement.
Larger Bases: The size of the first, second, and third bases will go up from 15 inches square to 18 inches square at full-season affiliates. Bigger bases were implemented at the Triple-A level in 2021 along with the Arizona Fall League; as a result, there were less severe base running injuries. There was also a slight uptick in successful stolen bases.
Defensive Positioning: In Double-A, High-A, and Low-A, the team on defense must have a minimum of four players on the infield, with at least two infielders completely on either side of second base. Implementing this rule showcases more athleticism in defenders while giving back a more aesthetically satisfying gameplay.
Automatic Balls and Strikes System: In select games in Triple-A and in the Low-A Southeast, ABS technology will be used to call a more accurate set of balls and strikes.
Triple-A: In Triple-A West, umpires will call balls and strikes through May 15th. ABS will be implemented starting May 17th. In Triple-A East, ABS will be used through throughout the season in all games played in Charlotte.
Low-A: In the Low-A Southeast, MLB will be testing a “Challenge” system in select games. How the challenge system works is, if the umpire calls a ball or strike, the pitcher, catcher, or batter has the opportunity to challenge the umpire’s call and check the ABS. Each team gets three challenges and will retain them if successful.