Reviews And Buying Guide On the Best Baseball Bats
Being equipped with the right gear is just as important as having the right skill set – something that is very true in baseball, where choosing the best baseball bats is equally crucial as a player’s batting skills.
As a matter of fact, a player’s choice of bat could either improve or weaken overall performance. Fine details such as the weight, feel, and balance of the bat affect the speed of swing, ball impact, and ultimately, the flow of the baseball game itself.
My Picks Top 10 Best Baseball Bats
Unfortunately, most of us often overlook the proper equipment and treat it as a non-priority. Too often, well-meaning but unaware parents buy their young players a bat with the wrong length or weight, or even both. Poor bat choices, apart from negatively affecting in-game performance, could counterproductively result in discomfort and incorrect swinging habits among budding players.
The good news is we did the hard work for you and reviewed our six favorite baseball bats to help you in picking the right bat for you. We have also included a definitive buying guide to help you understand what factors make up the perfect bat.
Important Factors to Consider
Always remember that the best baseball bats will give you the most control and the fastest batted ball speed. This requires maximum energy transfer from the grip of the player, to the bat, and finally to the ball. This means that you have to find the one with the right weight, length, drop, barrel size, and preferably priced within your budget.
Best Baseball and Softball Bats Buying Guide
Power hitters benefit the most from a slightly heavier bat for maximum hitting power. Contact players, on the other hand, tend to prefer lighter bats to give them greater swing control and faster batted speed.
The rule of thumb is to choose the lightest, yet also among the strongest, bat. Bats with top-quality materials usually weigh the least and also the most expensive. This is because top-of-the-line technologies are used in manufacturing such equipment. Some of these key technologies and features will be discussed further in the next sections.
The low-priced ones are normally made from cheaper and thinner aluminum, which means they require thicker walls for added strength. The thick walls weigh down your bat and could affect your control and speed.
Bear in mind that as the walls of the bat thin down, your speed and performance improve. Higher-quality alloy allows the walls to be thinned down while still maintaining strength and durability.
When you choose a bat, take multiple swings at first and if the bat begins to drop, it’s probably too heavy. Another test is to hold its handle and extend it with your arms to your side. If you can’t hold it without your arm shaking or the bat dropping for 20 to 30 seconds, it’s too heavy for you.
The drop is basically the length to weight ratio of the bat. You can calculate it by subtracting the weight of the bat from its length. The result will be a negative number and this indicates the total ounces that the bat weighs. For example, a bat that is 30 inches long marked with a -10 drop will weigh 20 ounces.
Essentially, the higher the drop, the lighter the bat is. High school and college baseball leagues are regulated and can only swing a bat with a maximum drop of -3. Younger players are allowed to use bats with higher drops. Again, it is very important to check with your league or program’s limit first on how much drop is acceptable.
Longer bats offer longer reach which allows you to hit balls on the other side of the plate. This is perfect for players with relatively shorter arms or for dealing with tricky distant pitches. However, longer bats also tend to be heavier and the extra weight could possibly slow your swing momentum down.
When determining the proper bat length, place the handle end of your bat in the middle of your chest and reach toward your index finger while your arm extends on your side. If the bat goes beyond your index finger, it means it is too long. If it only reaches your palm and wrist, the bat is probably too short.
Another thing to remember is that the taller you are, the longer your bat should be. However, you should also incorporate the length with the bat’s weight, as these two would definitely affect the physics of your swing. For example:
- A long and light bat provides a fast bat speed, but it will not have much momentum.
- A short and heavy bat will not give the fastest bat speed but it will propel the ball with plenty of momentum.
Finding the right balance between bat size and length is primarily a personal choice and could be difficult at first. Try different combinations of length and size with the style of play you want. If you are a contact player, power is not your primary priority, hence you could opt for a lighter bat. But if you want to be a power hitter and swing for the fences, you will benefit more from a shorter and heavier bat.
Barrel and Barrel Diameter
The barrel is the thick part of the bat which is meant to hit the ball. This is where the “sweet spot” is located.
The “sweet spot” is the part of the barrel considered to be the optimal location for hitting the ball because it provides maximum energy transfer from the bat to the ball, although the location of the sweet spot varies according to a bat’s construction and a player’s swinging style. It takes a good amount of time and experience to always make contact with this spot, but a good barrel can improve the player’s chances of making a solid hit.
There are two types of bats according to barrels: balanced and end-loaded. A balanced bat has an evenly distributed weight throughout the entire length of the barrel.
Meanwhile, an end-loaded bat has added weight towards the end of the barrel near the end cap. The additional weight makes the bat heavier to swing and more difficult to control. When you land a solid hit with the end-load, the hit will feel like you are swinging a heavy pendulum around.
If you are a contact hitter, balanced bats are great for you. This will allow you to generate faster swing speeds without compromising your control during the swing.
On the other hand, power hitters will benefit more from an end-loaded bat. This is because the added weight at the end of the barrel generates more momentum and will push the ball to farther distances. However, one may need some getting-used-to with the feel of swinging bats with weighted ends.
As for barrel diameter, your choice will depend on what league you belong to. Barrel diameters come in four different sizes: 2 ¼ inches, 2 ½ inches, 2 5/8 inches, and 2 ¾ inches.
Most youth baseball players are required to use bats with 2 ¼ inch barrel diameter. This is the standard barrel diameter for Little League and Dixie Youth but some leagues like PONY allow certain age divisions to use bats with 2 5/8 inch barrel diameter. Meanwhile, high school and college players are all required to use a bat with a maximum diameter of 2 5/8 inches.
Choosing between wood and non-wood is the easiest decision to make, as it just depends whether you are a pro baller or not. However, choosing what non-wood material to pick could feel a bit overwhelming at times.
First, wood is primarily used by big league players but it can also be used for practice bats, with the exception of some states that really mandate its use.
The unique grain structure of wood makes it the ultimate material in terms of flexibility. Grain structure refers to the “straightness” of the grain or the strength of separation between grains. The general rule of thumb for wood bats is the straighter the grain, the denser and more durable the bat.
Because of wood’s unique grain structure, wooden bats have a strong side and a weak side. It is usually recommended to hit the ball with the opposite side of the bat where the label or engraving is placed. This is because labels are normally placed on the weak side of the bat.
When making contact with the ball using a wooden bat, make sure that the label side is facing up towards the sky or down towards the ground. This position will ensure that you are hitting the ball with the strong side.
There are three species of tree approved to produce wood bats: maple, birch, and ash.
The grain structure in maple is very tight, which means it is very dense and very tough as the grains are tightly-packed. However, this also makes maple very heavy.
That is why maple is preferred by most pro players, especially sluggers. Since it is the hardest and the heaviest, it hits the ball with more energy and power.
You could actually hear a loud crisp pop when the ball is hit, which gives you that satisfied feeling of being able to “crush” the ball. The engraving and color of maple also stands out, making it the go-to wood when looking for a wood bat with the sharpest look.
However, maple wood bats have the shortest sweet spot, so it is not something to be recommended for novice hitters. It is also very rigid and does not offer much “flex” for end shots, so it is also not a good option for contact hitters.
Birch is great for first-time wood bat hitters. It can be thought of as a cross between maple and ash – it has the strength of maple and carries the “flex” of ash.
This kind of wood offers protection against inside pitches and also against mis-hits off the end of the barrel. Its density falls between maple and ash, so it’s not too heavy and not too light either.
However, because of its hardness, you have to hit it a little harder to firm it up. Birch is also not a good option for those who want faster bat speed without compromising a bigger barrel. And if you’re prone to mis-hits, you are better off with ash, as birch does not provide a long sweet spot.
Ash is the lightest of the three approved woods. The lighter density of ash allows it to “flex”. As a result, wood bats made from ash rarely suffer from fractured breakage. However, the grain structure in ash is very porous, which makes it very vulnerable to flaking, especially after extended use.
Since it is the lightest, ash delivers a trampoline effect, which makes the ball feel like it’s “jumping” off the bat. This launches the bat with the fastest speeds.
Ash also provides an oversized sweet spot, making it perfect for hitters who tend to swing the ball all over the field. Its grains are also very visible, which gives the bat a highly natural look.
However, since ash is not as hard as maple, you should expect less distance. Also, while ash offers great flex, it only flexes in one direction and not so much when the ball hits on the other side of the engraving. That is why it is very important to always aim with the strong side of the bat.
Composite bats are made from a reinforced carbon fiber polymer that may sometimes include Kevlar fibers or glass melded into a plastic resin base. The resin serves as the bonding agent that will hold the materials together.
Things We Like:
- More controllable swing weight
Swing weight is how heavy the bat feels during the swing. Because of the nature of materials used in composite bats, manufacturers can easily readjust the weight distribution of the bat, thereby effectively changing its swing weight.
The weight of a composite bat can be evenly distributed or end-loaded. Balanced weight is great for contact hitters while power hitters will greatly benefit from end-loaded bats, as this will give a heavier swing weight and more momentum when hitting the ball.
- Tuned trampoline effect
Trampoline effect is when the ball seems to “jump” off the bat upon impact. The harder the bat, the lesser the trampoline effect, and the slower the ball comes off because it loses energy during contact.
The materials in a composite bat contain different properties when put in a different direction and manufacturers use this to their advantage by making the bat harder along the handle but softer around the barrel.
Hence, composite bats have a softer barrel to maximize the trampoline effect. This makes the ball jump off the bat faster and increase play performance. Also, the trampoline effect in a composite bat increases over time, which is why it needs to be broken in first.
- Unique “sting” dampening feature
When a ball does not hit the sweet spot, players often experience a “sting” in the hands caused by the vibrations. Composite bats correct this by lowering the bat’s bending stiffness, which is the cause of the vibrations, but still without compromising the bat’s durability. The result is a bat with a more forgiving sweet spot with greatly reduced sting.
- No “ping” sound
Composite bats sound differently than aluminum bats. Instead of a “ping”, they have a popping sound. This is because of the reduced vibrations during collision, which “dissolves” the sound faster. Contrary to other reviews, this is actually a good sign that the ball left the bat faster as it did not have enough vibrations to make a ping.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- Usually more expensive
Composite bats are usually more high-priced than aluminum or alloy bats because of their more complex construction and highly versatile materials.
- Needs time to break in
Composite bats require breaking-in to produce the pop. It is strongly recommended to practice it with 150 to 200 solid hits with a regular baseball or softball. It is also important to rotate the bat each time you hit the ball to evenly break it in.
- Aluminum and alloys
Aluminum bats are either made from a one-piece design made entirely of aluminum or with aluminum alloys. An aluminum alloy is basically aluminum mixed with other metals to give the bat different characteristics, like added durability.
Things We Like:
- Does not break
Alloy bats never break, they just dent. Because of this, they can still be used even if they are damaged. As long as a barrel ring can fit around the barrel, your dented alloy bat is still good to go. Nevertheless, the best metal baseball bats are more resistant to dents and deformation because of their special coated alloys.
- No break-in required
Unlike composite bats, aluminum and aluminum alloy bats do not need breaking in, so you can immediately use them after buying. In fact, the prime of alloy bats is when they are brand new.
- More affordable than composite bats
Although aluminum and alloy bats are generally cheaper than composite bats, bats with more expensive alloys will give you more benefits, such as a longer sweet spot or extra sturdiness. On the other hand, bats constructed from cheap alloys tend to easily get bumps after repeated direct hits. Just remember that in terms of price and performance, you get what you pay for.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- Usually has a smaller sweet spot, especially the cheaper ones
- Tend to have a smaller barrel than composite bats, specifically the alloy bats
- Can lose pop over time due to bumps and surface deformations
Hybrid bats use the materials of composite bats and aluminum alloy in different parts of the bat. A traditional example would be a bat with a composite handle and an aluminum alloy barrel. In a nutshell, hybrid bats combine the benefits of composite and aluminum alloy bats in one bat.
The benefits and disadvantages of a hybrid bat depend on what materials are used. Although unconventional, there are hybrid bats that combine an alloy barrel with a composite end cap. There are also bats that mix an exterior composite shell with an interior aluminum barrel.
As for the price, hybrid bats cost lower than composite bats but are slightly more expensive than aluminum and alloy bats.
League Requirements and Regulations
Before you go bat shopping, always check the rules of your program or league first for what kinds of baseball bats are allowed. Most baseball leagues have their own bat requirements and restrictions.
Little League has its own list of approved bats. However, there are bats that do not appear on the list but could still be considered legal.
In general, the approved length for Little League ranges from 24 inches to 32 inches, while the drop ranges from -13.5 to -9. These vary, depending on the age division. However, the rule for the barrel diameter is uniform across all ages and should not exceed 2 ¼ inches.
PONY League players are required to use a bat with the USSSA stamp. Bat barrel diameter ranges from 2 ¼ inches to 2 5/8 inches. If your bat falls under the latter, it is required to have a BBCOR certification and should have a -3 drop weight. All non-wood bats are also expected to have a Bat Performance Factor (BPF) of 1.15 or less.
Approved length and drop varies according to the age division. The length ranges from 24 inches to 34 inches, while the drop starts from -12 to -3, except for those with 2 5/8 inch barrel diameter, which are required to have a -3 drop.
High School and Collegiate Leagues
The National Federation of State High Schools Association (NFHS) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) mandate the use of BBCOR-certified bats with a -3 drop for all games under this league.
BBCOR stands for Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution. This measures the trampoline effect of the bat upon impact with the ball, rather than just the exit speed. The previous standard used was the BESR or the Ball Exit Speed Ratio. They later replaced it with BBCOR because BESR failed to take into account the bat performance after breaking-in and ball speeds started to fly through the roof.
With BBCOR, energy lost during impact is measured. The higher the number registered by a bat, the more dangerous it is. BBCOR regulates the performance of non-wood bats to be more comparable to wood bats even after being broken in, hence the .50 stamp because this number is only slightly higher than the number registered by wooden bats.
However, for games that do not require the use of a BBCOR bat, it is better to use other bats, as this requirement can put you at a disadvantage of not hitting the ball as far as you can. It is quite risky though, so you will have to be very careful at where you aim your hit.
Fastpitch and Slow Pitch Softball
The best softball bats are categorized according to the type of gameplay: fastpitch bats and slow pitch bats.
Fastpitch bats are designed to hit balls with a maximum speed of 98mph as per softball batted ball speed standards. Therefore, fastpitch bats are designed to be lighter for quick reactions.
Fastpitch bats could be made from a variety of materials such as aluminum and other metals; fiberglass, graphite, and other composite materials; wood; or a combination of these materials. The important thing to remember is that the best softball bats always have the ASA Certified stamp and should not exceed a BPF of 1.20.
On the other hand, slow pitch bats are intended to hit balls travelling around 25 mph, thus they are designed to be heavier than fastpitch bats and primarily intended for slugging.
There are numerous leagues for slow pitch softball: ASA, USSSA, NSA, ISA, ISF, and SSUSA. Your league will determine which governing body’s rules they adhere to, so it is highly recommended to check with your league’s rule book before searching for the best softball bats.
The Best Baseball Bat Reviews of 2018-2019
What to Look for When Choosing The Best BBCOR Bat
Whether you are in high school or in college, you will need an adult BBCOR bat with the appropriate length, drop, and construction to maximize your batting performance.
Most adult BBCOR bats generally range from 31 to 34 inches, although there are a few brands and models with 29 and 35 inches. To find out the suggested baseball bat length for you, you can use a bat sizing chart.
Another way to measure is the wingspan method. Stand up straight and extend your arms to the side, as if you are mimicking an airplane. Start measuring from the center of your chest to the tip of your fingers.
All BBCOR bats are required to have a -3 drop no matter the length. This is the only drop approved by both the NFHS and NCAA. If your bat does not have a -3 drop, you will not be allowed to play in official games as that will be deemed illegal.
One-piece bats are made from a one solid block of wood, composite material, or alloy. In general, it is hard and heavy, which makes it very powerful and can land very solid hits. This kind of bat is perfect for power hitters.
The handle and the barrel of two-piece bats are two separate pieces connected together. This allows the bat to flex and boosts your swing with extra speed. Two-piece bats are usually preferred by contact hitters.
To get the most out of your swing, find the BBCOR bat with the right size, length, and construction that matches your play. Select the one that gives you the most control and you will become more consistent with your hits. With the proper BBCOR bat, you will produce faster swings, which will eventually increase your swing power.
Frequently Asked Questions about Youth Baseball Bats and Their Answers
How Do I Choose A Baseball Bat For Youth?
Make sure that you are comfortable with the bat’s size when swinging. Your personal preference is an important aspect in bat selection, especially for beginners. A heavier bat offers more power. On the other hand, a lighter bat will provide you with better bat control and more speed.
If you’re still unsure about which size to go for, try using bats that your teammates use to find out how the bats feel. Experiment on swinging with various sizes to see what you like and the sizes that you can handle properly.
How Long Do I Have To Break-in My Youth Baseball Bat?
If you have an aluminum baseball bath, break-in is not necessary since the bat is ready for action once you get it out of the package. Bats with composite barrels, however, need time to prepare for optimum performance. You may need 150 – 200 hits before you get the best results, although there are some new models that can perform well without having to break-in.
What Temperature Is Ideal For Youth Baseball Bats?
Alloy bats are believed to be less sensitive to temperature compared to composite bats. Most manufacturers recommend the best temperatures to use their bats. As a rule, however, it is not suggested to use any bat at a temperature of less than 550 F. While there is no maximum temperature to avoid, composite bats have a tendency to produce a little more pop in warmer weather.
What Types Of Youth Baseball Bats Are Available On The Market?
Youth bats are usually made of either metal or wood, and are typically used by players aged 7 – 12 years. Most players use metal bats since they are lighter and easier to handle. The bats usually have a barrel diameter of 2 ¼” and length of 26 – 32”.
You can say that your bat is too heavy for you if you hit lots of foul balls and you often lose control. On the other hand, it is too light if you hit a ball well and it barely passes through the infield.
What Rules And Regulations Are Currently Being Implemented Regarding Youth Bats?
BPF 1.15 – In general, youth bats are under USSSA 1.15 BPF (Bat Performance Factor) that measures the speed of the ball after getting in contact with the bat. A bat must meet this standard before it is approved for play. Most youth bats have the 1.15 BPF seal.
Other League Certifications – Major youth baseball bodies approve bats with a barrel diameter of 2 ¼”. These organizations include USSSA, Little League, Dixie Youth, Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken, AABC, and PONY. Most of the youth bats produced today have barrels marked with the league/s the bat can be used in.
* Regional rules may vary. Thus, it is suggested that you check with the league director to know which particular bats can be used in your league.
The best youth baseball bats, especially for Little League, usually rely on a parent or a guardian’s willingness to spend. That being said, when given an unlimited budget, composite bats would be the best choice. Its sting dampening feature, large barrel size, and lighter swing weight are perfect for a young player who is still developing their own play style.
It is also recommended to buy your Little Leaguer a baseball bat depending on the number of games they play in a year. More than 45 games annually warrant a composite bat. For kids who play 20 to 45 games a year, hybrid would be a better bet. But if your kid plays less than 20 games a year, it would be impractical to spend on something expensive so it would be better to go with aluminum.
While high school and college baseball have the same bat regulations and restrictions, they still have varying preferences. However, it can be noticed that both look for the best metal baseball bats.
Majority of high schoolers usually choose a BBCOR-approved composite bat for its longer sweet spot and because these kinds of bats typically have a lighter swing weight. Plus, the sting dampening effect of composite bats is a very helpful bonus.
On the other hand, college players, in general, prefer aluminum bats with more expensive alloys and top-quality hybrid bats. College baseball players typically use bats that do not need breaking-in and are usually top-loaded. There are also summer college baseball programs that allow players to use wooden bats to prepare them for their future pro baseball.
There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration when choosing the best baseball bats and it varies from person to person. At the end of the day, the choice will ultimately boil down on your length, weight, budget, play style, and of course, what league you are playing in.