Various rule changes to be tested in Minor League Baseball

Various rule changes to be tested in Minor League Baseball
"This effort is an important step towards bringing to life rules changes to create more action and improve the pace of play," stated MLB.

The Minor League Baseball (MiLB) season is set to open the first week of May. The Triple-A leagues, originally scheduled to begin just after Major League Baseball (MLB) opening day in April, have been delayed one month. During the period, MLB clubs will have alternate training sites for reserve players.

"This is a prudent step to complete the major league and minor league seasons as safely as possible, and we look forward to having fans back in ballparks across the country very soon," stated MLB through a release.

During the upcoming 2021 season, MLB will test a variety of experimental playing rules at different levels of the Minor Leagues.

The Triple-A Leagues will test an increased size (from 15 to 18 inches square, 38.1 to 45.7 centimetres square) of the first, second and third base bags. The goal is to reduce collisions.

At the Double-A level, the defensive team will have a minimum of four players on the infield, each of whom must have both feet completely in front of the outer boundary of the infield dirt. Depending on the preliminary results of this experimental rule change, MLB may require two infielders to be positioned entirely on each side of second base in the second half of the Double-A season. These restrictions on defensive positioning are intended to increase the batting average on balls in play.

At the Class-A advanced level, pitchers will be required to disengage the rubber prior to throwing to any base, with the penalty of a balk in the event the pitcher fails to comply. MLB implemented a similar rule in the second half of the Atlantic League season in 2019, which resulted in a significant increase in stolen base attempts and an improved success rate after the adoption of the rule.

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At the Class-A level pitchers will be limited to a total of two pickoffs per plate appearance. If a pitcher attempts to a third pickoff and the runner safely returns to the base, he will be charged with a balk.

MLB will also test at the Class-A level the Automatic Ball-Strike System (ABS) already experimented in the Arizona Fall League and the Atlantic League.

"We are listening to our fans. This effort is an important step towards bringing to life rules changes aimed at creating more action and improving the pace of play,” said Michael Hill, MLB Senior Vice President of On-Field Operations.

In a vast effort to reshape the player's development process, MLB has invited all MiLB clubs to become Professional Development League (PDL) license holders.

The number of MiLB teams decreased to 120 and all clubs accepted the invitation.

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