MLB to expand electronic strike zone to all Triple-A ballparks

Umpires will still be used in Minor League Baseball in 2023, but will be assisted by a the Automatic Balls and Strikes system. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
1 of 5 | Umpires will still be used in Minor League Baseball in 2023, but will be assisted by a the Automatic Balls and Strikes system. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- All 30 Triple-A baseball stadiums will implement the electronic strike zone during the 2023 season after experimenting with the technology last season, a league source told UPI on Friday.

The 2023 implementation of ABS for all Triple-A games is subject to approval by MLB team owners.


There is still no official plan for MLB to implement the technology in the big leagues, the source said, but the increased use of the Automatic Balls and Strikes system could signal its potential for application at the next level.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told FS1 in October that he thinks an automated system will find its way to the big leagues "in one for or another" within the next few seasons.

Over the last few seasons, MLB used two forms of the system in Minor League Baseball and other lower-level games. One application involves an umpire still standing behind home plate to signal balls and strikes and other calls, but using the system to judge the strike zone.


The other application involves a combination of an umpire and ABS in a challenge-based format, similar to the way chair umpires work with tracking technology in tennis. In that format, an umpire makes the initial call, which can be challenged later and confirmed by ABS review.

Teams in the latter format receive three challenges per game. Like the NFL, If a challenge is successful, that team retains the ability to use that challenge again later in the same game.

Umpires involved in the calls wear earpieces, connected to a Hawk-Eye tracking system, which immediately relays ball and strike decisions -- in the full-ABS format. This season, half of Triple A games will use the full ABS-system, with the other half implementing the challenge-based approach.

The two approaches have been implemented on various levels of the minor leagues over the past several seasons, including the International League and Pacific Coast League, which make up the Triple-A level.

In 2021, MLB expanded ABS testing, which began in the Atlantic League and Arizona Fall League, to select Low-A Southeast games.


MLB stars, who spent time in the minor leagues in recent years due to demotions or injury rehabilitation,experienced the technology and will continue to adapt due to its increased usage, which could ease its potential big-league transition.

MLB and Hawk-Eye announced in 2020 that the tracking platform would be used in all ballparks, but umpires still made ball and strike calls. The technology also allows live ball and player tracking, with a plus or minus 0.1-inch accuracy, and canvases the entire field.

Hawk-Eye also has been used at the Grand Slam level of professional tennis and in professional soccer and NFL games.

Pitchers and catchers will report to MLB spring training camps in mid-February. The Class-AAA season will start in late March.

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