With the 2016 Major League Baseball season underway (finally!), now seems like the perfect time to break out the measuring tape and see which baseball bats are the best at slugging the long ball, driving in runs, building confidence at the plate and enhancing player performance.
Quick Look: Top 3 Picks
Rawlings VELO BBCOR
Marucci Chase Utley Pro
Choosing The Best Slowpitch Softball Bat
Every year, bat manufacturers continue to drive the industry forward with new sticks, ground-breaking technologies and fresh designs. Hitters wait patiently for manufacturers to unveil the newest model of their favorite bad and to see how it matches up with last year’s club. It is like a second Christmas for batters.
Baseball Bat Reviews
To make the search for your (or the ball player in your family’s) perfect bat a little easier, we have boiled down the very baseball bat offerings into an all-star, starting lineup of 10 of the best baseball bats for this year.
As always, our lists try to incorporate bats that fit a variety of different styles, materials, prices and batting preferences; after all, every hitter’s situation is different. The following 10 bats are listed in no particular order. Alternatively, you can scroll to the end and check out the awards section to see our top recommendations for a variety of categories (for instance, best baseball bat for a power hitter, best affordable bat, etc.).
Louisville Slugger Prime 916 Review
Louisville Slugger’s (LS) dream for the 2016 Prime 916 was to blend a light swing weight with a bigger barrel than is typical for contact hitter’s bats. The result is a fast-swinging stick that has a surprisingly large sweet spot. This bat has an incredibly impressive sweet spot to swing weight ratio.
In other words, the LS Prime 916 is light enough to cut through the strike zone and drive the ball up the middle, but every once in awhile, you will catch that large sweet spot just right and turn that drive into a homerun. Aside from its large sweet spot, the Prime 916 also generates power through its Fused Carbon Structure (FCS) and Flex Band Technology. The FCS affects the bat’s composite material to increase its overall durability, which means you do not have to worry about it losing its integrity partway through the season.
The Flex Band Tech is, literally, a flexible band inside the bat’s barrel. This made it possible for LS to make the Prime 916 with thinner walls, which optimizes the stick’s trampoline effect. It is available in BBCOR, Senior League and Youth models.
Rawlings VELO Baseball Bat Review
The Rawlings VELO is, arguably, one of the best one-piece baseball bats on the market. mThe reason why the VELO is worthy of such an accolade is thanks to its precise design that aims to maximize the flex index and power zone of the bat. Under the hood of this Rawlings offering, you will find its Precision-Optimized Performance (pOp) 2.0 technology, which is upgraded from last year’s models. According to Rawlings, their pOp 2.0 enhances the size of the VELO’s sweet spot by as much as 25%. At the same time, it helps improve the flexibility of the stick, thereby increasing bat whip through the strike zone. Another interesting element of the Rawlings VELO is its Acoustic Performance (AP) technology.
While this feature does not improve the performance of the bat, it does generate a head-turning sound upon contact. Even though this has no affect on the hitter’s ability at the plate, you will be surprised at what an impact it has on your (and adversely, your intimidation factor towards the pitcher).
AXE Bat HyperWhip Element Review
The 2016 AXE Bat HyperWhip Element’s design is a prime example of how bat manufacturers continue to push the bounds of the traditional design of a baseball bat. AXE bats are relatively new to the industry, but their unconventional axe-handle knobs have quickly garnered them a lot of attention. This untraditional approach to the handle delivers a variety of benefits. AXE engineers report that it is proven to enhance control, power, speed and comfort. However, the design does take some getting used to.
Since the HyperWhip Element makes contact on the same side of the barrel each time (due to the directional nature of the handle), AXE was able to cut down on weight on the non-hitting side of the bat to create an impressively balanced swing.
Despite being a solid, one-piece bat, many hitting experts feel that this design element actually gives it the feel of a 2-piece bat.
AXE bats includes a 30-day trial period with all of their sticks. If your hands cannot get used to the untraditional knob or one-side hitting approach, you can return the bat during this trial and receive full reimbursement. Few manufacturers offer such a great trial period or extended warranty on their products.
Marucci Pro Model Wooden Bats
When it comes to the best wooden baseball bats, few can match the quality and expertise of a Marucci. A large reason this company has been so successful at taking over the wooden bat industry is their wealth of big league hitters that advise, invest and test the company’s bats. Some of the game’s biggest names, Andrew McCutchen, Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, David Ortiz and others, play a hands-on role in the designs of Marucci’s bats.
What could be better than the best hitters around pooling their years of knowledge and hitting expertise together and producing a baseball bat? It is like having a think tank for batting. Marucci’s Pro Model bats are cut to the precise specifications of one of the big leaguer’s on their advisory board.
In other words, you can purchase the same bat that Ortiz, Bautista or another all-star uses. Marucci also offers a Custom Pro Model that can be shaped in any manner you wish. Every Marucci bat is made from high-quality maple or ash and undergoes a bone rub finish that enhances the density and overall integrity of the bat.
Easton MAKO Baseball Bat Review
Whenever a list, such as this one, is created, you can always expect to see the Easton MAKO somewhere on it. Part of the reason for this is because the bat is offered in so many different styles and variations; there is a MAKO bat to fit nearly every hitter’s preference.
Not to mention, the bat itself has some truly inventive and performance-enhancing technologies that make every MAKO model a menacing presence at the plate. The bat uses Easton’s Thermo Composite Technology (TCT) to deliver a lighter swing, large sweet spot and better overall bat speeds.
This creates one of the lowest MOI ratings available. Despite being a two-piece bat, the MAKO does an excellent job mimicking the feel of a solid construction stick thanks to ConneXion technology. This feature acts to create a tighter connection between the barrel and handle, thereby reducing vibrations, creating a solid feel and actually redirecting energy back into the barrel.
The TORQ variations of the 2016 Easton MAKO feature the company’s cutting edge 360-degree rotating handle.
This technology is just a couple years old, but many hitters swear by the handle’s ability to get the barrel around quicker to improve hitting inside pitches.
DeMarini Voodoo Baseball Bat Review
For years, the DeMarini Voodoo has been a favorite choice among top college baseball players. The main reason for this popularity is because the Voodoo carries some serious power with it; the 2016 model is no different. To achieve this enormous pop, DeMarini utilizes their X12 alloy, which is noticeably responsive and specially designed to create the perfect flex index during a hitter’s swing. If that is not enough to make the power hitter in you happy, DeMarini went ahead and elongated the barrel to increase the size of this stick’s sweet spot.
Since power hitters typically enjoy the solid, consistent feel of a one-piece bat, it may come as a surprise to learn that the Voodoo is actually a two-piece club. However, DeMarini still wanted the hitter to feel each contact, as if it were a solid bat. Thus, they created the D-Fusion 2.0 handle, which is carefully calibrated to dial down the vibrations created upon contact by just enough to prevent bat sting, while still allowing the hitter that stiff, one-piece feel.
The 2016 Demarini Voodoo, like its predecessors, is available in a couple different variations, each with its own end load weight. For example, the Overlord is considered slightly end-loaded, when compared to its close relative the Voodoo RAW, which is fully end-loaded and a power hitter’s dream.
Louisville Slugger MLB Grade Wooden Bat
Marucci may be on its way to becoming the premier supplier of wooden bats in the Major Leagues, however, it is hard to imagine a world where Louisville Slugger is not highly regarded as being the original crafter of wooden bats. The MLB Grade series is the company’s professional-quality wooden bats; these are the closest sticks to the ones that real sluggers like Dustin Pedroia and Curtis Granderson use. They are made from only the highest-quality wood (maple, ash or birch) that LS harvests, which ensures that every MLB Grade bat is sturdy, straight and blemish-free.
When ordering a LS MLB Grade Wooden Bat, you can customize it precisely to your liking, including specific measurements (for example, taper of the handle, diameter of the barrel, etc.), the type of wood (LS also offers composite construction that uses two different types of wood) and the grip. Similar to Marucci’s Pro and Custom series, these bats are finished with bone rubbing, to help seal the pores of the wood and improve density.
Easton Z-Core Review
The Z-Core and MAKO are actually quite similar, despite having different bat technologies, which goes to show you just how much a hitter’s preference plays into their purchasing decision. Even though the MAKO is noticeably more popular, there are many sluggers who swear by the Z-Core. The major difference between these two Easton sticks is that the Z-Core does not have the many different models and variations, like the MAKO. Thus, it caters to a smaller core of hitters.
However, it is available as a one-piece or composite two-piece bat, whereas the MAKO is only a two-piece club. Overall, the Z-Core is a light-swinging bat that is ideal for contact hitters. Made from Hyperlite Matrix Alloy (HMX), the bat is capable of surprising power, while maintaining its hasty swing speed.
In addition, its Z-Core technology (for which the bat is named) resides inside the barrel and acts by expanding the size of the sweet spot, similar to the Flex Band Technology of LS’s Prime 916.
Combat Maxum Baseball Bat Review
While Combat and their 2016 Maxum series are renowned for their fastpitch softball bats, that should not deter any batting enthusiast from checking out the 2016 Combat Maxum baseball (BBCOR, youth and senior league models) bat.
The goal of this year’s Maxum was to create a bat that had a light swing, but massive sweet spot. To achieve their mission, Combat created a one-piece composite design that is made by stacking layers of material on top of one another and then injecting liquid resin between the folds.
This process is known as Precision Molding Technology (PMT) and helps extend the durability and overall lifetime of the Maxum. The company is so sure of its PMT process that it backs its bats by a 500-day guarantee. Not only does the PMT technique improve the stick’s durability, but also creates one of the biggest sweet spots available. When compared to competitor’s bats, the Combat Maxum has an approximately 20-40% larger sweet spot. It will be hard not to catch balls on the right part of the bat. Thus, you will drive the ball more consistently and thereby build your confidence as a batter.
DeMarini CF8 Review
DeMarini’s CF-series of bats has been one of the most popular choices by hitters, at all levels of play, for the past few years. Unlike the company’s end-loaded Voodoo, the CF-series is known for being a lightweight bat designed for contact hitters.
The 2016 CF8 is no exception; the bat is similar to the previous year’s CF7, but has a number of improvements. First is DeMarini’s high-quality Paradox +Plus Composite material (upgraded from the Paradox Composite), which has been enhanced to improve the bat’s low swing weight, without sacrificing power.
Also upgraded is the D-Fusion 2.0 Handle technology, which works alongside the bat’s Low Pro End Cap to redirect energy back to the barrel and thereby maximize the force exerted on the ball.
DeMarini also decided to elongate the barrel of the CF8, which noticeably increases the side of the sweet spot, for more consistent rips. DeMarini is known for allowing players to customize the appearance of their bats. While this does not enhance the performance of the bat, or player, it is an interesting aesthetic choice that is rarely offered by bat manufacturers.
As mentioned above, this section includes our top picks regarding a number of categories. Hopefully, it will act as a reference guide for you to find the bat with the qualities most important to you as a hitter.
Best baseball bat for a power hitter
The Easton MAKO XL is a close second, but only the DeMarini Voodoo is a true, thoroughbred, power-hitting bat. Not to mention, you can choose between the slight end load of the Voodoo Overlord, or go all in for the full end load of the Voodoo Raw.
Best baseball bat for a contact hitter
If it were still 2015, the answer would likely be the DeMarini CF8, and it is still very close. However, what is nice about the 2016 Rawlings VELO is how much it has improved from last year’s model. The CF8, on the other hand, has only made slight improvements to existing bat technologies.
Best wooden bats
Marucci Pro/Custom Model Series
While Louisville Slugger may have the decades of history, reputation and brand loyalty, Marucci’s wooden bats are just slightly a cut above. How can you beat professionally inspired wooden bats made to the exact specifications of Major League Baseball’s best sluggers?
Best baseball bats for the player with flair
DeMarini Voodoo & 2016 DeMarini CF8
If you are the type of player that wants to look good all the time, even on the diamond, then it is hard to match the look of a customized DeMarini bat. You can match the colors of your uniform, go bright and loud, choose a patriotic color scheme or any number of other color combinations and options.
Best baseball bats for the player on a budget
AXE Bats HyperWhip Element & 2016 Combat Maxum
Unfortunately, when we are discussing the “best” bats, it is hard to come across a super affordable option. However, both these award winners have outstanding warranty offers. Even though the bat may not come cheaply, you can look at it like a long-term investment and know that it will not break down during this season or next.
Best overall bat
The 2016 Easton MAKO is the pick for the best overall bat for two main reasons. First, it has so many different variations to accommodate different hitting styles (for example, power hitters are best suited for the MAKO XL or MAKO XL TORQ), which means nearly every hitter can use it.
Other bats have tried to do this in the past, but they were not able to offer the consistent quality, across all models, that the MAKO does. In other words, they offered an excellent, lightweight contact hitter’s bat, but when they moved to an end-loaded variation, the bat was not as successful, whereas every variation of the MAKO is wonderful. Aside from this universality, the MAKO is worthy of praise for its bat technologies alone. From the Thermo Composite Technology, to the ConneXion tech in between the handle and barrel, to the TORQ spinning handle, the Easton MAKO oozes features that not only improve the bat’s performance, but also the player’s.
Somewhere, someone believes that each bat on this list is the “best,” which simply goes to show you how much brand loyalty and sheer preference goes into a hitter’s decision on choosing a bat. No matter how great the reviews of the Easton MAKO, Rawlings VELO or DeMarini CF8 are, when you get it in your hands, you could have absolutely zero feel for any of them. Considering the price tag of a high-quality baseball bat, metal or wood, it is always recommended that you give it a test run first, at your local batting cage or pro shop. Thus, you can be absolutely sure that you have found the perfect tool to drive balls all over the field and beyond.