Love them or hate them, MLB will continue to test out rule changes in 2021. Last year we saw a bunch of them at the big-league level thanks to the coronavirus pandemic limiting the season. Changes such as the universal DH and new extra innings rule were meant to help teams get through the season unharmed.
But this year, the minor leagues will be making a return after the year off, meaning that rule changes will be tested out there. MLB announced today that they will try out a number of new rules aimed at making the game faster and more efficient. Each of these rules were approved by the Competition Committee and the Playing Rules Committee.
Larger Bases at Triple-A
MLB is hopeful that increasing the size of the bases from 15 inches square to 18 will reduce injury. That hope is that the larger are to share the bag between defenders and runners will reduce collisions and could also help offensively, albeit slightly.
MLB Banning the Shift at Double-A
MLB is technically calling this one “defensive positioning limitations”, but we all know what that means. The discussion to ban the shift has been debated over the last few years, and this might be the first step. Each team is required to have 4 infielders at all times, and they cannot have their feet in the outfield grass per the new rule.
MLB Step Off Rule Change to High-A
Another interesting change coming to High-A is the step-off rule for pitchers attempting to pickoff. Rather than the quick pickoff attempt, pitchers are required to disengage with the rubber before throwing over. MLB did the same things in the Atlantic League in 2019 which resulted in a whole lot more stolen bases.
Pickoff Limits and Electronic Strikezone
This is also a big one. Not so much the pickoff limit, which only allows a pitcher to throw over to a base 2 times per plate appearance. The penalty for exceeding that would be a balk, according to the league. More importantly, they will once against test out the automated ball-strike system in the Southeast region of Low-A.
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