What’s New In 2022 For Major & Minor League Baseball
SALT LAKE CITY – After a 99 day lockout, MLB players and owners finally came to terms on a new CBA that will allow the 2022 season to open on April 7, 2022.
Now that fans know baseball will be played, it’s important to know how major league baseball and its minor leagues will look different due to a variety of rule changes that will be implemented at different levels of professional baseball.
Designated Hitter added to NL
At the major league level, the new CBA will introduce the long discussed and much debated designated hitter to the National League full time.
The DH rule was adopted by the American League in 1973, allowing teams to designate a player to hit in place of the pitcher in the lineup.
Up until the 2022 season (excluding the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season), a designated hitter has not been used in games played in NL stadiums.
The rule change in essence creates a new need for all 15 NL teams as they scramble to sign free agent primary-DH hitters like Nelson Cruz, Khris Davis, and to a lesser degree, Kyle Schwarber to fill that role in the everyday lineup.
Under the new CBA, the postseason will expand from 10 teams to 12. Six teams from each league will participate in the playoffs.
The top two teams in each league will automatically advance to the Divisional Series.
The wild-card round will now see a pair of three-game series’. The three-seed in each league will host a three game series against the six-seed while the same will apply to a three game series against the four and five seeds. To advance to the Divisional Series, a team would need to win two games in the wild card round..
No re-seeding will happen, so the one-seed will play the 4-5 winner and the two-seed will face the 3-6 winner.
If the six team playoff had been in place in 2021, the 91-71 Toronto Blue Jays from the American League and the 83-79 Cincinnati Reds in the National League would have made the postseason.
Another change that will have postseason implications is that tiebreaker games have been eliminated. Instead, a series of tiebreakers will be used to break ties instead of the fan favorite but player despised “Game 163”.
Other rule changes being implemented in 2022:
- No “ghost runner” at second base in extra innings
- Doubleheaders will be nine inning games rather than the seven inning format used in 2020 and 2021.
- A draft lottery will be implemented to discourage tanking
- Player uniforms will feature advertising for the first time
- Beginning in 2023, all teams will play at least one series against every opponent in both leagues
A series of experimental changes will be made at various levels of the minor leagues in an effort to gauge viability for major league use. Other changes will be put into place at some or all levels of MiLB.
- Pitch timer: Pitch timers will return for all full-season affiliates but pitchers at lower levels will also risk automatic base-runner advancement if a third pick-off attempt or step-off happens within the same plate appearance without recording an out.
- Larger bases: First, second and third base will all increase from 15 square inches to 18 square inches in an effort to reduce player injuries at all full-season affiliates.
- Defensive positioning: Extreme defensive shifts will be limited at Double-A and below.
- Automated Ball-Strike “ABS”: Otherwise known as ‘robot umpires’ will be used at select Triple-A locations and in the Low-A Southeast League to call balls and strikes.
- Triple-A West, which includes the Salt Lake Bees, umpires will call balls and strikes through May 15 with ABS systems taking over beginning May 17.
- The Low-A Southeast league will also test a ball and strike “challenge” system in which umpires will call balls and strikes, but the pitcher, catcher and batter all have the ability to appeal the umpire using an ABS system.
Spring training games are scheduled to begin on Thursday, March 17 with Opening Day scheduled for April 7. Despite a delayed spring training and the original opening day being pushed back a week due to the 99-day lockout, teams will play a full 162-game schedule with the six postponed games to be rescheduled as doubleheaders and on late season off days.
The Salt Lake Bees will begin their season at Tacoma on Tuesday, April 5. They will open the 2022 home schedule the following Tuesday as they host the Las Vegas Aviators for a six-game series.