Report: All Triple-A Minor League Ballparks to Use Robot Umpires in 2023January 13, 2023
Electronic strike zones are officially coming to Triple-A baseball.
According to a report from ESPN's Buster Olney, "The electronic strike zone will be used in all 30 Class Triple-A parks in 2023, sources told ESPN, seemingly another significant step toward the implementation of the technology at the big league level in the near future."
In half of the Triple-A games this season, the Automatic Balls and Strikes system will be used to determine all strikes and balls. And in the other half, the ABS will be utilized as a challenge system, with teams getting three challenges per game and retaining each successful challenge.
Such a decision is a potential precursor to the ABS eventually making its way to Major League Baseball. Per Olney's report, the league's "intention is to use the data and feedback from both systems, over the full slate of games, to inform future choices. As of now, MLB has no firm date to implement its Automatic Balls and Strikes system in the big leagues."
The ABS has gradually been added to the minor leagues over recent seasons, from the Atlantic League using it in an all-star game and the Arizona Fall League utilizing it in 2019 to some Single-A games using it in 2021 and some Triple-A games utilizing it last year.
The feedback has been "surprisingly positive, according to club staffers, with some in the industry beginning to believe that this might be a good first step in utilizing ball-strike technology."
It seems likely to be system that players embrace, even if it's only eventually utilized at the MLB level as a series of challenges. Whether umpires appreciate having their balls and strikes calls technologically scrutinized and potentially overturned several times per game—or having that aspect of the job taken away from them altogether—remains to be seen.
But it is a system that is coming:
"I think that you're going to see the automated system, in one form or another. ... I think in one form or another, there's a good chance we're going to be using it at the big league level at some point," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in October.