Deciding to buy a pitching machine can be a big investment. As such, it is important that you do the necessary research to find the best pitching machine that will last for seasons to come and be a valuable tool for shaping your skills at the plate.
There is a lot to consider before making that final purchasing decision. It may be a good idea to make a checklist of all the qualities you want from a pitching machine and then compare that list to top models.
For example, if you are going to have to routinely move the machine (they can be very heavy), then you will want a more compact model that is easier to store, carry and move around.
To help make your choice easier, this short, but thorough, buying guide will allow you to learn about pitching machines and construct your checklist of desirable qualities.
Then, you will look at 10 pitching machine reviews of top models to narrow your search down even more.
Quick Look: Top 3 Picks
Pitching Machine Styles
Pitching machines typically come in two different styles: armed or wheeled. The style of the machine dictates how it propels or pitches balls.
Armed contraptions are what you commonly come across in professional batting cages.
They are arguably the best pitching machines, but they have one key drawback — they are huge!
Most average consumers shop for wheeled pitching machines because they are far more storable, mobile and affordable.
While wheeled devices can’t reach the same high velocities of their armed counterparts, many of these machines can be adjusted for different pitch speeds and angles.
Some models can even be setup to curve the ball, just like a real breaking ball.
Types of Balls
Aside from pitching mechanics, these machines also differ from one another by the type, or types, of balls that they can use.
A lot of machines are designed to be used with practice baseballs or softballs, instead of real balls.
Yet, there are machines that do allow you to use live baseball and softballs.
Some machines can even be adjusted to allow for both types of balls to be thrown.
While you may be pulled towards choosing a machine that lets you use real balls (after all, you probably already have plenty on hand), I’d actually recommend a machine that uses practice balls for one major reason: practice balls are more durable.
The several baseballs or softballs you have on hand will quickly begin to degrade as you use them with your pitching machine; they’ll start to tear at the stitches, form lumps and other defects.
Batting cage balls, on the other hand, are built to last and last.
You also need to consider how fast your machine needs to throw.
On the other hand, if you or your young player are high school age or older, than you need a high speed machine that is capable of simulating the pitch speeds you see in live games.
The best high speed pitching machines are able to propel the ball up to 100 mph.
Thus, they are much more attuned to match pitch speeds thrown at any level of play, even the big leagues.
Adjustability & Other Features
When constructing your list of desired qualities for your ideal machine, you need to think about what you will be using the machine for and how.
The best pitching machines can be adjusted in several ways to meet different needs and purposes.
For instance, did you know that a pitching machine can help you with your defensive skills, as well as hitting?
If you want to use your device to practice fielding, you need to find one that adjusts to serve this role.
Additionally, some of these machines can be adjusted to throw certain pitches, which can be crucial to learning how to hit a breaking ball or a particularly fast heater.
Other features could include things like how the balls are fed into the pitching machine.
If you often practice with someone else, then there isn’t much to worry about.
However, if you prefer to practice alone, you want to find a pitching machine that has a remote controlled auto-feeder.
Best Pitching Machine Reviews
Now that you have a general understanding of what you need to look for in a pitching machine, it is time to look at some reviews of the top models on the market and determine some of the standout candidates for your future pitching machine.
This list is designed to include a variety of different models, in an effort to meet the many different types and applications of these devices.
The hope is that no matter what specific qualities you are looking for in your pitching machine, there will be an option in the list below that suits your unique list of needs.
The Heater Deuce
When it comes to finding an affordable, but effective two-wheel pitching machine, the Heater Deuce is hard to beat, thanks to its adjustable settings and other features.
In other words, this baseball pitching machine is more than likely going to scratch a few things of your check list.
First, it is capable of pitching speeds up to 75 mph, but also able to safely and slowly lob the ball over the plate for younger players.
By estimate, it is suited by players 8 years of age to adults.
What’s more, especially with young players around, the machine’s wheels are encased, so no fingers or other appendages can accidently get caught while it is operating.
If you or your young player are practicing alone, the Heater Deuce has an automatic ball feeder that holds twelve balls and releases one every ten seconds, which is more than enough time to set it and get yourself into position at the plate.
The pitching machine is designed with a pivoting head, which allows it to hurl a wider repertoire of pitches, including curveballs and other deceptive breaking balls, which is great for a player having trouble reading these types of throws.
The height of the machine can also be adjusted.
The Heater Deuce pitching machine is capable of throwing regulation baseballs and same-size practice balls.
That said, it is recommended that you use practice balls over live balls because these cause less wear and tear on the machine’s wheels.
When it comes to convenience and mobility, the Zooka ZS740 is honestly one of the best pitching machines available.
It weighs a mere 25 pounds, so you can easily carry it along with your equipment bag in one trip from your vehicle to the field.
Also adding convenience is this pitching machine’s rechargeable, 12-volt battery.
Not only is this battery long lasting (power consumption reports estimate that it can throw 500-800 balls, depending on pitch speed), but it also eliminates the hassle of power cords.
The Zooka ZS740’s innovation is in its digital interface, which lets the operator track the speed of every pitch.
It’s also capable of being programmed to throw a mix of pitches, for a better simulation of real pitching that allows the batter to practice adjusting from a fastball to an off-speed changeup.
Because this machine uses compressed air to pitch balls, instead of wheels, it is a lot safer; no fingers can get harmed by fast-moving parts.
This throwing mechanism also means the Zooka ZS740 can throw real baseballs, without you having to worry about wearing down the machine and needing to replace wheels or destroying the balls.
Compared to a wheeled pitching machine, this one is practically maintenance free.
When it comes time to practice fielding, the easy-tilt-and-swivel design of this device’s tripod can adjust to multiple positions that make it possible to throw ground balls, towering fly balls and hard line drives.
No matter what position you play, you can use the Zooka ZS740 to improve your fielding.
ATEC Casey Pro 3G
When it comes to high-end batting practice aids, the ATEC Casey Pro is at the head of the class.
That said, if pricing and affordability is one of your top concerns, you may want to save yourself the reading time and skip down; these machines can run between $3,000-4,000.
Often, they are purchased for an entire team to use because they have some many different functions for practicing hitting and fielding.
On the hitting side of the spectrum, the ATEC Casey Pro delivers the best precision control and one of the best speed ranges on the market.
Its micro-adjustment technology allows the operator to make small changes in pitch location, type and velocity.
It is arguably the closest at simulating live, top level pitching; you can dial it in to throw a fastball up and in, before throwing a breaking ball down and in and then a changeup away.
For defensive drills, this top-of-the-line pitching machine can be adjusted to throw both infield and outfield practice.
And, to achieve a more authentic feel to practice, you can use real baseballs with the ATEC Casey Pro machine, or the dimpled practice balls if you choose.
The wheels of the machine are even designed to cause less damage to real balls, so you don’t have to worry about blowing through boxes of baseballs.
Aside from its price, the only other downside to this machine is that it has to be plugged in.
This can make mobility or practicing on a field and issue.
Most consumers recommend buying a generator to power it when it is on the field, but that incurs an additional expense to an already hefty price tag.
Louisville Slugger UPM45 Blue Flame
The beauty of the Louisville Slugger’s UPM45 Blue Flame is in its simplicity.
Where other machines choose to pitch balls with fast-moving wheels, compressed air or other mechanisms, the UPM45 achieves pitch speeds between 18-45 mph with a simple spring driven arm.
Not only does this mean there is no power or electricity source needed, but it also allows the machine to pitch any type of baseball or softball.
It is the official pitching machine of Babe Ruth and Pony leagues.
This straight-forward design also cuts out a lot of weight. There is no heavy battery pack or generator needed, just the device itself, which weighs only 23 pounds.
This is actually slightly heavier than previous models of the UPM, because this latest model has a re-designed base that offers greater stability for steady and consistent pitches.
Despite this simplistic design and easy-to-use operation, the Louisville Slugger UPM45 Blue Flame is very accurate.
While it may not have the precise control of a high end machine, it does have an adjustment knob that changes the height of the pitches, which can be very instructional towards helping young hitters learn how to hit all parts of the strike zone.
If you want to increase the speed beyond the top 45 mph, you can simply move the machine closer to the plate, this gives the appearance of faster pitching and helps teach faster reaction times and quicker swings.
According to pitching machine reviews, the UPM45’s spring does eventually wear out and the pitch speeds begin to decline.
However, you can order a replacement spring and install it yourself easily and cheaply.
Rawlings Pro Line Three-Wheel
If the ATEC Casey Pro 3G pitching machine has any competition at the top of the mountain, it would be the Rawlings Pro Line Three-Wheel machine.
Again, this is a high end machine that is going to cost you a lot (about $3000), but its features are unmatchable and, if you are buying the machine for an entire team to use, it could just be worth it.
As one of the best pitching machines out there, the Rawlings Pro Line is capable of professional pitch speeds up to 100 mph.
It can also throw any type of pitch imaginable, from fastballs and changeups to sliders, curves, screwballs and even a knuckleball.
The three-wheel design of this contraption, over the traditional one or two-wheel construction, makes operating this machine is easier than competing models, even the other expensive batting aids.
For example, you don’t have to fuss with adjusting clamps and trying to recalibrate the wheels for the right pitch location.
The Rawlings Pro Line has twelve pre-set spin types that allow you to set the speed, location, amount of spin and others.
Its digital control panel makes this whole process easier than ever.
Also worth mentioning with this device is its ability to throw many different types of balls, including eleven or twelve-inch softballs, baseballs, lite practice balls, dimple balls, and more. But, not at once.
In other words, this machine has different feeders and setups that allow it to pitch a wide range of balls, but many of these have to be bought separately.
These attachments can add a couple hundred dollars to the end price tag.
JUGS M6000 Lite-Flite
JUGS is the most recognizable name when it comes to pitching machines.
Their light blue color and white wheels are synonymous with what comes to mind for many players when they think about the best baseball pitching machine, or softball.
What makes the M6000 Lite-Flite standout, among many of the other JUGS models, is that it is designed to only throw JUGS Lite baseballs or softballs.
While these balls don’t really give you the same feel as hitting the real McCoy, they can be important instructional tools to help younger players get over the fear of being hit by the ball.
And, if you are practicing alone or with just one other person, collecting the balls after every round of hitting is easier, as the balls don’t travel as far.
The JUGS M6000 Lite-Flite pitching machine can adjust to throw either lite softball or baseballs.
It is also easy for the operator to cycle through different pitches for the machine to hurl, thanks to the Select-A-Pitch knob; there is a choice between fastballs, curveballs and slides.
When it is time to practice fielding, the device’s 360-degree swivel base allows it to launch high fly balls, hard grounders, deep line drives and more.
And, at only 35 pounds and a battery-operated 1.3 amp motor, it is easy to move around the field to offer fielding practice for different positions.
The last piece of the puzzle that makes this device such a standout as one of the best pitching machines out there is its price.
JUGS always offers those Major League quality features for a Little League price.
SKLZ Lightning Bolt Pitching Machine Pro
This is not to say it is of the lowest quality and void of features, but rather it serves a very different level of player.
While the aforementioned, high-end machines are designed to simulate real, professional-level pitching, this super affordable device is built with backyard batting practice in mind.
It uses its own specially designed micro-soft Bolt Balls (12 are included with the machine) that are just a tiny bit smaller than a baseball.
These balls are engineered to mimic the flight path of a real baseball out of the machine, but only weight .2 ounces, which means you won’t be hitting them far or causing any damage.
Thus, you can practice all day long, right in your backyard, and without worrying of hitting windows, neighbors or passing cars.
The machine can actually hold 25 of the micro-soft Bolt Balls, but you have to order the additional thirteen.
The pitching machines long tube feeder is detachable and can be used to easy pick up the balls around the yard and reset for the next round of hitting.
This is especially nice when you take the device to the field, instead of the backyard, where the balls may not be so contained.
The SKLZ Lightning Bolt pitches its ultra soft balls up to 25 feet at around 30 mph.
However, because of the lightweight nature of these balls, unless you are using it inside a gym or on a calm day outside, the wind can play a big factor in the flight path of the balls.
The Spinball Wizard and the Rawlings Pro Line 2 Wheel (very similar to the three-wheel described above, minus a wheel) are very close to one another in design.
In fact, Spinball Sports manufactures the Pro Line 2 for Rawlings.
The only major differences between the two is price (the Spinball Wizard is around $500 cheaper) and the Spinball Wizard has an analog dial, instead of a digital control, to change pitch speeds.
Otherwise, this baseball or softball pitching machine is capable of throwing the same wide arsenal of pitches (including the knuckleball), at speeds up to 100 mph and with pretty excellent precision.
It includes a guide book that shows you all of the settings to achieve each type of pitch, even defensive drills for how to throw towering pop ups or hard grounders.
So, you won’t miss that digital control anyways.
The Spinball Wizard is exceptionally light, especially for a two-wheel pitching machine. It weighs only 59 pounds, which is almost half the weight of most competing models.
In addition, its wheels are superior to many other models because they are solid, instead of air-filled.
This allows them to last longer, pitch straighter and require less reset time in between pitches.
It can be the best softball pitching machine or the best baseball pitching machine, depending on what type of legs you use (which determines the release height of the ball).
There is even a third option that adjusts between the two heights and is able to use both regulation baseballs and softballs.
Overall, you are sacrificing the digital control panel of the Rawlings 2-wheel machine to save your wallet several hundred dollars. Not a bad trade off.
The BATA-2 pitching machines are like the older, cooler brother to the JUGS models.
Why? Because they are used very widely, just like the JUGS, but only by top level, professional baseball teams, due to their high price point.
So, your average youth player or semi-professional may not see these machines as often as the JUGS, but ask most pros and they’ll tell you that their team uses the BATA-2.
Similar to the Rawlings pitching machines or the ATEC Casey Pro 3G, this machine is capable of throwing any pitch that a real human being could throw.
And, it can throw them just as fast. It tops out at 100 mph, with a low end of about 25 mph. So, any age player can use the machine, but it is designed to be used by big leaguers.
BATA-2 Combo Pitching Machine
It has to be powered by a 110-volt outlet or generator, which makes mobility a little hard.
Not to mention, its welded steel body and stand don’t make it incredibly lightweight either.
Thus, if you plan to practice outside, make sure there is an outlet nearby and plenty of extension cords.
The biggest perk to the BATA-2 pitching machine is its ability to pitch real, leather baseballs and softballs exceptionally well.
Its Soft-Tread pitching wheels are engineered to not just throw real balls accurately and quickly, but also nearly eliminate any wear and tear damage to the balls or wheels.
In other words, they are more durable than the wheels of competitors’ machines.
Heater PowerAlley 11-Inch Softball
This list includes a lot of examples of baseball pitching machines, or combination machines, but there are very few examples of what the best softball pitching machine may look like.
Enter the Heater PowerAlley 11-Inch Softball Pitching Machine. As the name suggests, it works with the smaller 11-inch softballs, instead of the larger 12-inch.
The single wheel of this device in enclosed for your safety (and the safety of small wandering fingers).
The wheels speed can be adjusted between 15 and 40 mph, so you can practice hitting fast or slow pitches.
For more variety, you can adjust the machine’s height to give pitches more or less arc. It can also be setup to toss grounders or pop fly balls for fielding drills.
If you are looking for a pitching machine for solely softball hitting, this is going to be one of your best options.
Even if your league uses the larger 12-inch balls, the inch difference is negligible and will end up helping your hand-eye coordination. When it is game time, you’ll just see the ball better.
Overall, for its low price and its intent to be a softball-focused machine, the Heater PowerAlley 11-Inch Softball device gets the job done and then some.
Its only big drawbacks are it tops out at 45 mph, so older and more experienced hitters will have to look elsewhere, and there is no auto-feeder. You have to have another person feed the softballs in one at a time.
Best Baseball Pitching Machine
If this list had to be cut down to just one option, the choice would be a close race between the Zooka ZS720 and the Spinball Wizard.
While the high-end options may have a lot of bells and whistles, their price tags will make the average consumer run and hide.
On the other hand, both of these options offer a good mid range price (comparatively), with lots of features.
If your budget is very tight, the Zooka is an especially nice option. Plus, it is super portable and even gives you that same digital control that the ultra expensive machines have!
Best Softball Pitching Machine
While the Heater PowerAlley 11-Inch Softball batting machine is the only true softball device on the list, your best option is actually probably going to be the Louisville Slugger Blue Flame, at least at the youth level.
For higher level play (and faster pitches) you are going to have to graduate to something like the Spinball Wizard or better.
The Blue Flame beats out the PowerAlley simply on portability, ease of use and cost.
While the two machines are priced very closely, the spring-operated device isn’t going to need replacement wheels like the Heater PowerAlley, so the operation costs are very low.
It also doesn’t need to be plugged in, if you are planning to practice outside and away from a power source.
The market for pitching machines is very diverse. You can buy a low end model for less than $50 or break the bank for a device that will cost you almost $4,000.
That’s why I encourage you to make that checklist of desired qualities because it will help you determine where on the spectrum you are, how much you’ll need to spend and whether or not the investment is truly worth it.