In high-Class A, pitchers must step off the rubber to make a pickoff attempt, removing the deceptive left-handers’ move to first base. In low-Class A, they are limited to two attempts per plate appearance. One low-Class A league features a 15-second pitch clock, and the other an automated strike zone.
The schedule has also been revamped, with most leagues resting on Monday and then playing a six-game series.
“It’s less travel, and you’ve got every Monday off, which is nice,” said Nolan Gorman, a St. Louis Cardinals infield prospect. “But it’s definitely more of a chess game now with the opposing pitchers, because you see a starter two times a week. Whoever starts Tuesday is going to throw Sunday, pretty much. Now you’ve got to figure out how they’re attacking you and play your game to that.”
Gorman started the season in Class AA and has since been promoted, giving him a chance to see two of the new rules up close.
On the change to the Class AAA bases, which are now 18 inches square, up from 15, he said: “Honestly, the bigger bases were a little confusing and a little different to get used to. By now, I’ve got it down a little bit and it’s not too bad. It’s more so running the bases — they’re bigger, so technically you have less area from base to base to run, and when you’re cutting the angles, there’s specific ways to do it.”
And on the absence of the infield shift in Class AA, Gorman said: “I would say it gave some hits to guys who are pulling the ball on the ground. But for the most part, I haven’t seen too much of a difference in Triple-A with guys playing on the grass. It hasn’t been too much of a factor for me, but it’s definitely different playing back there after playing the first couple of months on the dirt only.”
Francisco Alvarez, a Mets catching prospect who has played at two Class A levels this season, said controlling the running game has been harder with the limits on pickoff moves.