During the early stages of Spring Training this past March, MLB announced a groundbreaking three-year agreement with the Atlantic League that brought sweeping changes to the sport.
Commissioner Rob Manfred detailed a number of peculiar rule changes would be experimented with in Atlantic League games during the 2019 season. Among them included an automated strike zone that would assist umpires calling balls and strikes, a three-batter minimum for pitchers, and the banning of shifts and mound visits.
Later in July, a new set of rule alterations were announced. Chief among them was the ability to steal first base and remade interpretation of a check swing.
The most intriguing addition was arguably the automated strike zone, as the concept of one eventually being implemented into MLB games has been discussed for quite some time now.
After a successful test run in the Arizona Fall League, Manfred revealed that automated strike zones will find their way to Minor League Baseball games in some form next season, via Evan Drellich of The Athletic:
Tested already in the independent Atlantic League and the MLB-run Arizona Fall League, the automated strike zone is slated to arrive in Minor League Baseball in some capacity in 2020.
Officials at the commissioner’s office declined to elaborate on the scope of the Minor League implementation or the technology changes because neither plan has been finalized. One person with knowledge of the situation said one possibility is putting the automated zone in use in most of the Florida State League, which is run out of facilities that also double as spring-training parks.
Unclear is whether Minor League umpires would use the automated ball-strike system, or ABS, as a guide for calls, or as the actual final arbiter.
While it is currently unknown how big of an impact robot umpires will have on Minor League games next season, Manfred’s announcement is nothing short of historic.
Hill believes the sport is not in need of any drastic changes and has especially been critical of the pitch clock. He also isn’t a fan of the mound height adjustments being tested in independent games.
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