Minor League Baseball is returning in 2021, but not without any changes to the game itself. There have been plenty of MiLB rule changes, including pushing the mound back a foot or implementing a Home Run Derby to win the game. The two rules changed at the Minor League level that fans may see in MLB are shift regulations, and automated strike zones.
2021 MiLB Rule Changes in Double-A: Regulating the Shift
At the commencement of the 2021 campaign, infielders and coaching staff will be without the ace of the shift up their sleeve. In the first half of the season, infielders will be required to have both feet on the dirt, though they can be positioned anywhere in the infield.
In the second half of the Double-A season, there will be more MiLB rule changes, this time, the rules will require two infielders to be positioned on both sides of second base. The players will still be required to have their cleats in the dirt as well.
With this rule comes umpires that will have to be more attentive to the action on the field. Fielders obviously move as the pitch is thrown, so an extra umpire may be needed on the field as there are more MiLB rule changes from year to year.
MiLB is still working to smooth this rule change out. Breaking up this rule change into halves of the season will be clunky as midseason rolls around. But this is one of the many MiLB rule changes that baseball fans can see transfer into MLB sometime soon.
2021 MiLB Rule Changes in Low-A: Automated Strike Zone
It is about time, right? Robot umpires will be experimented with for the first time in baseball in Low-A. One of the more popular MiLB rule changes, plate umpires will be wearing earpieces connected to a tracking radar system installed which will say ball or strike to the umpire.
Electronic calling of the strike zone will ensure that the umpires are getting the call right behind the plate. Using the automated system in low minor league levels will give MLB the chance to observe whether it would be effective or not at the professional level.
For the players, the zone may start small to increase the amount of contact. However, as the season progresses the zone can change as well. The different zones used will dictate different games, and that is something MiLB will have to continue to monitor.
Will the 2021 MiLB Rule Changes Dictate the Future of MLB?
As baseball has changed over the past decade, the rules will have to as well. With help from fan polls, and data analysis MiLB has a list of rule changes that they feel can make it to MLB soon. Each rule change is an experiment, and well worth it in my opinion.
The MiLB rule changes this season do not drastically change the game, but will change how it is played from pitch to pitch. Whether it is a reposition of an infielder that cannot be made, or a questionable ball call, MiLB will be interesting to watch this year.
Over the past seasons, MLB has changed. The players are faster, pitchers throw harder and with more movement, and statistics run the game. So preservation of some of the games older ideologies of limiting the shift and a solidified strike zone can only help, the only question being: how much can it help. The 2021 Minor League Season is returning, and can be an integral piece of changing future MLB seasons to come.
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