MLB to start using ABS challenge system full-time at Triple-A level later this month

Major League Baseball appears to be closer to implementing the automated ball-strike challenge system across the board.

The league sent a memo to minor-league club directors on Tuesday announcing that starting on June 25, all Triple-A games will use the ABS challenge system full time, according to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. Previously, the system was used for half of the week, and the full ABS was used for the remainder of games.

While this is a step toward implementation in the major leagues, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said it will be at least another season before the league makes that change everywhere.

Under the ABS challenge system, batters and catchers can challenge umpire calls on balls or strikes at the plate in real time. Umpires then receive an answer to the challenge through an earpiece. Teams get three challenges each and retain their challenge if successful. That system has been in place at the Triple-A level for games played on Tuesday through Thursday so far this season.

Under the full ABS system, all calls are made for the umpire without challenges available. That system has been used for weekend games at the Triple-A level.

MLB umpire Clint Vondrak and Gary Sanchez of the Milwaukee Brewers crouch behind home plate and wait for a pitch during a game earlier this month. (Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
MLB umpire Clint Vondrak and Gary Sanchez of the Milwaukee Brewers crouch behind home plate and wait for a pitch during a game earlier this month. (Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) (Mark Cunningham via Getty Images)

According to the memo distributed to teams, nearly 90% of fans think teams should have six or fewer challenges combined per game. A survey with fans and players found that 61% of players and team personnel and 47% of fans prefer the ABS challenge system, while only 11% of players and team personnel and 23% of fans want the full ABS system, per ESPN.

Even though the change is a minor one, especially considering that the system has been in place for half of Triple-A games that have been played this season, the league is clearly working toward implementing this across the board in the future. If all continues trending in the same direction, the challenge system could be seen at the major-league level as early as 2026.

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