I’ve previously profiled experimental rules being used in the Pioneer and Atlantic Leagues. However, there is a different experimental rule at each level of the affiliated minor leagues too, which started their season yesterday. Here they are:
AAA—The bases are 18 inches across instead of 15. The idea is to reduce injury and make circling the bases marginally faster. Seeing as it narrows the distance between bases by only three inches, I’m guessing the change in base running times will be negligible. However, a bigger bag my reduce collisions at least at first base.
AA—In the first half of the season, infielders must set up with their feet on the dirt—no short outfield positioning. In the second have, in addition to keeping their feet in the dirt, there half to be two infielders on either side of second—no overloading one side of the infield with the shift. Obviously these are intended to increase the numbers of base hits.
High-A— Pitchers have to disengage from the rubber before trying to pick off a runner; otherwise it’s a balk. This particularly affects the pick off move for a left handed pitcher trying to throw to first. The hope is to increase stolen base attempts.
Low-A—Also wanting to increase stolen bases will have a rule limiting the pitchers to two step offs or pick off throws per plate appearance. A third one would be a balk. This one seems a bit extreme to me.
Low-A west—The pitch clock will be shortened to 15 seconds with clocks placed in the outfield and between each dugout and the area behind home. Speeding up the game more and ensuring the ump and pitcher can’t miss seeing the clock.
Low-A south—Automated ball/strike calls. The umps wear an earpiece, hear the call and repeat it. This isn’t just to ensure accuracy/consistency of the calls; it will also enable the league to adjust the strike zone in the future too.