Now, the two sides have formalized what was already happening informally, as the league and Major League Baseball announced a three-year agreement that will allow MLB to use the independent league as a testbed for rules and equipment changes.
And those rules changes will be significant. While no one with the Atlantic League would confirm the changes, it is expected that the rules tweaks will involve moving back the mound and using Trackman to call balls and strikes, both rules changes that have long been suggested, but are significant enough to require plenty of in-game testing.
And those are changes that would be nearly impossible to first implement in any level of affiliated minor league baseball or the developmental Arizona Fall League, as all 30 teams would likely be hesitant to let their prospects loose on a mound that isn't 60-feet, 6-inches from home plate. But the Atlantic League, which is full of veteran pitchers, many of whom have MLB experience, will give MLB an opportunity to try out a rather significant change with high-caliber players.