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As the baseball season approaches and players take a closer look at their equipment, hitters inevitably will wonder how their current bats compare with others in its class, or against new bat model releases. With bat manufacturing involving technological advances more and more — namely with metal bats — it could be a real challenge to choose the best baseball bat for 2021 and the seasons immediately following.
Seasoned baseball players know how the right bat can, indeed, augment hitting performance. Batting averages can involve luck regarding where a ball was hit. However, the harder you hit the ball, the more likely you’ll get a base hit, and a bat crafted well with the right material, weight and dimensions certainly can help batters crush baseballs. A good bat can reduce the element of luck.
Advancements in the metals, e.g. aluminum or “alloy” bats, make it even more difficult to choose the right bat today. That said, what are the best baseball bats for this season and, hopefully, seasons to follow?
- 1 Quick Summary
- 2 Who Should Get a New Baseball Bat?
- 3 What to Consider When Choosing a New Baseball Bat
- 4 Top Baseball Bats: Our Choices
- 4.1 1. Best Baseball Bat Overall: Marucci CAT8 -3 BBCOR
- 4.2 What We Like:
- 4.3 Not So Much:
- 4.4 2. Best Baseball Bat for Power: DeMarini Goods Half n Half (-3) BBCOR
- 4.5 What We Like:
- 4.6 Not So Much:
- 4.7 3. Best Baseball Bat for a 3-Piece: Louisville Slugger 2021 Meta BBCOR
- 4.8 What We Like:
- 4.9 Not So Much:
- 4.10 4. Best Baseball Bat for Versatility: Rawlings 2019 5150
- 4.11 What We Like:
- 4.12 Not So Much:
- 4.13 5. Best Baseball Bat for Youth: Easton -12 Typhoon
- 4.14 What We Like:
- 4.15 Not So Much:
- 4.16 6. Best Baseball Bat for Innovation: Axe Bat 2018 ORIGIN USABat (-8) Baseball Bat
- 4.17 What We Like:
- 4.18 Not So Much:
- 4.19 7. Best Baseball Bat for Consistency: Rawlings 2020 Velo ACP BBCOR
- 4.20 What We Like:
- 4.21 Not So Much:
- 4.22 8. Best Baseball Bat Made of Wood: Louisville Slugger Genuine Series 3 Ash Mix
- 4.23 What We Like:
- 4.24 Not So Much:
- 4.25 9. Best Baseball Bat for Multi-Use: Cold Steel Brooklyn Smasher
- 4.26 What We Like:
- 4.27 Not So Much:
- 5 Some Tips on Baseball Bat Care
- 6 Related Questions on Baseball Bat Buying
- 7 Final Words on Best Baseball Bats for 2021
- Topping our list is the Marucci CAT8 -3 BBCOR, with its array of features at a moderate price.
- At the upper end of the price range there is the power of the DeMarini Goods Half n Half -3 BBCOR or the Louisville Slugger 2021 Meta baseball bats.
- For top youth bats, take a look at the Velo or 5150 by Rawlings, or the Easton Typhoon.
- To try a new type of knob at the bottom, see the Axe Bat and its purported performance enhancements.
- For non-metal bats, it’s worth your while to see the specs for the Louisville Slugger Genuine Series and the Brooklyn Smasher from Cold Steel.
Who Should Get a New Baseball Bat?
Any serious baseball player should at least know what types of new baseball bats are available, as newly released models often try out modern technologies in their materials or design, and some even come up with clever features (like an axe-like handle at the bottom, for instance). It’s wise to ask around to see what other players say, and even ask to use the bat of a teammate once or twice in game play or batting practice to see how a certain style and size feels on a swing.
(Note: Don’t ever use another player’s baseball bat in a batting cage without prior permission. Batting cages usually use hard plastic or rubber balls that can seriously damage a baseball bat. For this reason, very serious players have different bats for use in batting cages and in game play.)
For brand-new players, there’s always just using what comes in the coach’s bag, which is usually left-over hand-me-downs from previous seasons that are either deteriorating, or beat up badly. Youth leagues don’t often provide a great selection of bats for teams as the bat industry now provides a great variety of bat options, and a range in prices, so parents of new players tend to purchase a new bat for their little one.
What to Consider When Choosing a New Baseball Bat
Features or elements to consider in buying a baseball bat are listed below this section. Note that there are many “bat sizing” tips and charts available online. However, using a baseball bat effectively is really up to the individual and a number of factors. There is no one-size-fits-an-age or a -size chart to go by.
How much a bat weighs impacts a swing’s speed and a batter’s ability to control the bat head through the “hitting zone,” or the portion of a ball’s flight when it’s best to strike the ball. Too heavy a bat means late swings and foul-offs, if not outright misses. Same if a bat is too light, except the hitter swings too early — which can mean all the world in the split-second timing needed to hit a baseball.
Baseball bats are weighed in ounces and can range from 25 or 26 oz. for T-ball bats, to 30 to 32 ounces (generally) for high school ball, to 34 ounces and up for Major League Baseball hitters. Notable heavy-bat users were Joe DiMaggio and his 42-ouncer, and Babe Ruth used a 46-ounce beast in 1923, eventually dropping to a 40-ouncer when he hit 60 home runs in 1927.
Note that modern metal bats can come with a number with the minus sign in front of it, such as -3, -10 or -12 (called a “drop 3,” “drop 10,” etc. in industry parlance). This is an indicator of the difference between the length and weight of the bat, and is important for a number of reasons, to be explained further below.
How long a baseball bat is from its knob at the bottom to the end of the barrel is important to ensure the plate can be covered entirely no matter where any pitch arrives. Some hitters prefer longer bats to use the very ends to handle pitches arriving away from them, or outside on the plate. Beware that the longer the bat, the heavier it probably will be due to more material in the longer barrel, which can slow down bat speed and negatively impact a hitter’s success.
What the bat is made of is important as well. Only in professional baseball leagues do they use wood bats, for safety reasons as modern metal bats cause balls to travel faster and possibly injure defenders particularly the pitcher. Metal bats gained popularity in the 1970s, and enjoyed a boom in the 1980s and 1990s as bat manufacturers raced to produce models that hit balls harder and farther.
Today bat buyers can choose among wood, aluminum, or “alloy” (a mix of metals). In the past bat barrels could come in exotic materials like ceramic or titanium, but baseball leagues passed safety regulations around 2011 that high school and college leagues adhere to. (More on that below, under Legal.)
Most modern metal baseball bats are made in 1, 2 or 3 pieces, unlike the typical wood baseball bat carved as a single piece of wood. Manufacturers claim more pieces provide certain advantages, such as reducing sting from excessive vibration caused by mis-struck pitches. Some manufacturers separate the materials used for the handle and the barrel.
How a bat feels in a batter’s hands is a vital component. Bats could have thin or thick handles, different types of knobs at the end, or come with different types of grip. Players eventually know which handle styles they prefer, along with the weight and length. Note: this review mostly skips the type of grip because players can always easily modify handles with tape or other adhesives.
High school and college baseball players can only use bats that have BBCOR stamped on them, and those bats cannot have more than a -3 rating. The higher this rating (again the difference between the bat’s length and weight) the easier it is for a hitter to swing faster, therefore hit a ball harder. Higher ratings are allowed in pre-high school leagues where the players aren’t quite so big and strong. The -3 cap was established for player safety reasons.
It is very important for a parent or player to know the rules of the league to be participated in, because they could follow different bat regulations, such as BBCOR, USSSA, Team USA or USA Baseball.
Top Baseball Bats: Our Choices
We have reviewed quite a few baseball bats based on a variety of factors including sizes, features, price, and general popularity among players. We also considered different types of materials, e.g. metal vs. wood, or bats for purposes other than baseball. Here are our the 9 best baseball bats, per those parameters:
1. Best Baseball Bat Overall: Marucci CAT8 -3 BBCOR
While Marucci’s CAT9 lineup is now available, we tab the Marucci CAT8 -3 BBCOR as our top overall baseball bat for 2021. The main reasons: you can skip the premium price of the brand new model; and for that discount get a bat with probably the most solid reviews around by users.
While the Marucci brand name might not jump out at longtime baseball players, its wood bats were used by about a third of MLB players including Albert Pujols, Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper. The company’s investment in research and engineering, which it couples with feedback from top players, results in some of the best-performing, aka hardest-hitting bats on the market.
The CAT8 is made of the strongest aluminum in the company’s line of bats, the AZ105 alloy, which gets better response and durability through thinner barrel walls. The barrel is ring-free which means more flex and a big sweet spot, and more forgiveness for contact too far in or away. It’s 1-piece construction and anti-vibration knob allows for an excellent, consistent feel from the swing through contact.
What We Like:
- Strong aluminum alloy and ring-free barrel construction for more flex, less “dead” spots.
- Anti-vibration knob with a dampening system.
- Handle with a removable taper to an ergonomic knob shape for comfort.
- Well-balanced barrel for bolstered control.
- Priced well for the quality and features.
Not So Much:
- There’s not much to dislike about this bat, unless you’re very cost-conscious. The CAT8 is over a year old and the resulting discounted pricing makes it very attractive for really serious baseball players.
2. Best Baseball Bat for Power: DeMarini Goods Half n Half (-3) BBCOR
For those without an unlimited budget, and/or who want the biggest power boost possible, this DeMarini model (see more) is for you. Its enormous barrel alone gives the visual impression the bat means business — if all that mass can be swung fast enough to drive through a ball, well … just imagine the results!
The X14 alloy barrel and the 2-piece “direct connection” handle provides a stiffer feel that true power hitters prefer. Even the “seismic end cap” is made of the “stiffest materials in the DeMarini lineup” intended to expand the bat’s sweet spot and boost performance. It seems as if manufacturers are running out of metal-mixing ideas so they focus on improving other areas such as the end cap. Just an observation.
Everything about this bat seems engineered to let power flow from the batter’s arms and hands right into and through the barrel to the ball and beyond, for maximum impact — and distance. This bat is for very powerful swingers, not the guys content with just getting on base or moving runners over.
What We Like:
- The “Half n Half” shares the power: A special, very big alloy barrel controlled by a stiff composite handle.
- Very stiff end cap to extend the barrel’s sweet spot.
- Specially designed, hard end-cap to boost energy transfer on contact.
- Designed to be end-loaded, for more torque and power in hitting.
Not So Much:
- Among the highest-priced bats you will find.
3. Best Baseball Bat for a 3-Piece: Louisville Slugger 2021 Meta BBCOR
This bat competes with the above-mentioned DeMarini selection, with a high price tag for a multitude of promoted features. It’s composite barrel is specially engineered to make it easy to swing fast and hard (with a truer sound than the thud of past composites, for good measure).
As with the DeMarini, Louisville Slugger touts a barrel — the EKO Composite Barrel — for its engineering for a light swing and true sound upon impact. What differentiates the Meta is a 3-piece design, with a patented 3FX Connection System that allows for a perfectly tuned “stiff” feel on contact while dramatically reducing vibration.
The 2021 Meta (see Amazon) also features a premium end cap to stretch out the barrel’s most effective touch points, and help increase swing speed. Overall a major difference is this bat aims for swings more balanced in terms of speed and power (compared to DeMarini’s focus entirely on adding power and distance with the Goods line).
What We Like:
- Patented 3FX Connection System for stiff feel on contact.
- Balanced between the need for bat speed and power.
- Premium GT1 end cap maximizing barrel length.
- LS PRO Comfort Grip mixing cushion for comfort with tack for solid gripping.
Not So Much:
- Among the most expensive bats available.
4. Best Baseball Bat for Versatility: Rawlings 2019 5150
The 5150 has been called the “utility player” among the considerable Rawlings lineup, a “classic” 1-piece alloy bat with a balanced feel and big sweet spot. This bat has proved popular with players, who are not afraid to sing its praises in the form of hundreds of positive reviews.
Older players take note: The 5150 is designed for hitters age 14 and younger, as a USA Baseball-approved bat. Its larger sweet spot comes from Rawlings’ new “pop 2.0” technology, incorporating an aerospace-grade allows the boost performance and promotes durability. It’s difficult to imagine a metal being more durable than those used on airplanes or in space.
Rawlings markets this as a bat for every spot in the lineup, and the mix of features from fast bat swing to expanded sweet spot seems to fit the bill. This mainstay bat for a company known for excellent baseball products is priced well and should be moving off store shelves for years to come.
What We Like:
- Price. It’s hard to find a bat so impressive yet so affordable.
- Blend of attributes to offer something for every spot in the lineup, from leadoff hitter through cleanup hitter to the 9th man.
- Light drop weight and cap mean faster swing speeds.
Not So Much:
- Jack of all trades, master of none. There is no singular focus on any one aspect of hitting, which many buyers look for. Then again, this bat is for younger players, who might not yet know which hitting aspect they desire.
5. Best Baseball Bat for Youth: Easton -12 Typhoon
Like its competitor from Rawlings, the Easton Typhoon (see Amazon) goes straight for the younger crowd with an ultra-light bat packing plenty of wallup for its affordable price. The ALX100 “military-grade” alloy is very light-weight for ultra-fast swing speeds, and durable.
The 2.25” barrel seems to play bigger than the measurement suggests, and the 2.2mm FLEX grip is easy on the hands which can be very important with younger baseball players.
The Easton Typhoon has been popular enough to attract quite a number of online reviews from users, who praise the bat’s performance, light weight and pop among its top attributes. At this price range it is hard to overlook this bat with its light weight and still-excellent pop.
What We Like:
- Priced affordably.
- Very light drop weight for faster swing speeds.
- Power performance sustained despite light weight.
Not So Much:
- A “small” barrel could turn off some buyers.
6. Best Baseball Bat for Innovation: Axe Bat 2018 ORIGIN USABat (-8) Baseball Bat
Not everyone is impressed with all the metal and alloy technology in baseball bats; it seems there are so many advances that little difference can be made among them. So … why not focus on how the bat performs from the perspective of the hands? Enter the Axe Bat.
Axe bats are designed with an end knob resembling those on real axes — or angled downward — instead of the typical circular-round versions. The result is reported increases in average exit velocities (by 0.6 mph), launch angle (by 4 degrees), and distance (by 22 feet). The Axe Bat is endorsed by MLB stars Mookie Betts George Springer, so it seems the unique bat knob is not just a stunt.
Above the knob, players might appreciate the 1-piece construction and balance for contact, bat speed and power. The performance alloy barrel provides plenty of instant pop, plus added durability.
What We Like:
- Affordable price range.
- Patented axe-like knob, aimed at maximizing bat speed and improved control for harder and more consistent contact with the ball.
- Very light drop weight still helps speed up swings.
Not So Much:
- It may be hard for longtime players to get used to the feel of a different type of knob. Then again, they might find they love it.
7. Best Baseball Bat for Consistency: Rawlings 2020 Velo ACP BBCOR
Rawlings is known to place an emphasis on bat speed, and the Velo is no exception. Created for hitters age 12 and older, this model focuses on a precision-designed handle that delivers better feel and controlled swinging in the small hands of young players.
The popular Velo model has hardly changed for the past 5 years. The biggest change from this 2020 version and the model released the year before is Rawlings was able to shave off a small amount of weight, maybe 3% overall, with addition of a composite end cap. The company also infused some vibration-dampening material into the barrel.
For years, young batters have liked the nice, loud “ping” sound from this bat upon solid contact. But it’s the very light weight and faster swings that keep young players coming back to it. There’s something to be said about consistency in baseball, and it’s no surprise that it’s Rawlings that delivers here.
What We Like:
- Reduced overall weight for even faster bat speeds.
- Strong composite end cap.
- Vibration-dampening element in barrel.
- Light drop weight for boost in swing speed.
Not So Much:
- Not out-of-this-world expensive, but moderately high in the price range for younger players.
8. Best Baseball Bat Made of Wood: Louisville Slugger Genuine Series 3 Ash Mix
Not every baseball player today is enamored with the metal bats; and, some leagues mandate use of wood. Whatever the reason, bat manufacturers still keep producing wooden bats for the general public. Especially those who already make them for MLB and minor league players — like Louisville Slugger.
The company doesn’t hide the fact that these bats were prepared for pro players, but had some minor flaw (that the company states does not impact performance), bumping them to the general public marketplace. That alone may entice some baseball players to give this bat a try, just to see what major leaguers feel upon hard contact with a pitched baseball.
The price is excellent, too, compared with metal bats. Plus, use wood and forget about all the league bat standards, e.g. BBCOR, etc., because they don’t apply to wooden bats. Adult baseball players looking for something affordable for practice and batting cages should consider the LS Genuine — or even give them a try in games. The real “crack” of the bat on contact might be worth it alone.
What We Like:
- Very affordable. Overall, a value for the price.
- Evenly weighted (as opposed to Marucci wood models which are end-weighted).
- Looks good with its black handle and natural-finish barrel.
- Cupped end to reduce weight (no caps on wood bats).
Not So Much:
- Remember that wood bats are prone to cracking or breaking especially on hard inside pitches, and sometimes even when balls strike the very end.
9. Best Baseball Bat for Multi-Use: Cold Steel Brooklyn Smasher
It might not come as a surprise that some people shop for baseball bats without considering how they would perform in baseball games. Cold Steel (see Amazon) embraces this concept to proudly include “self defense” among this bat’s list of uses. The model is also rather heavy in weight, so the company also touts its potential use in aerobic workouts!
The Smasher is made of polypropylene, a “thermo-plastic” that resists fatigue after repeated use (think the tiny hinges on small Tic Tac boxes; how do they not wear away after repeated openings and closings?), and is rigid enough to use for piping. An interesting note is that polypropylene is popular for use creating those plastic sheets that protect baseball cards inside 3-ring binders!
So the Smasher is made from an ultra-hard plastic, which really differentiates it from other baseball bats on the market. This model gets more reviews than most any other baseball bats, and most of them are positive so it appears Cold Steel did its research and manufacturing well. This model also is among the lowest in price that you can find. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that polypropylene lasts 20 to 30 years, to boot!
What We Like:
- Marketed for multiple uses, aside from baseball, including for self-defense purposes or to work out with.
- Very, very affordable compared with any other baseball bat.
- Hard plastic is very durable and long-lasting.
Not So Much:
- These indestructible bats can tend to be heavy.
Some Tips on Baseball Bat Care
When looking for a brand-new baseball bat, one thing that’s sure to jump out at you is the prices of some of the higher-end models. Even those in the mid-range will make parents or older teen players think about proper care to ensure the bat lasts as long as possible.
Modern metal bats are very durable. Gone are the days of a single thin wall of aluminum on bats. Today’s bats are all special metal, alloys or maybe even multi-piece bat construction, engineered not only to propel baseballs harder and farther, but to last through the rigors of intense training, practicing and games.
Good metal bats can be treated like trusted golf clubs: it is wise to wipe them down with a moist cloth after game or practice play, and maybe give a hard scrubbing after batting cage use to get rid of the rubber or plastic skid marks those types of balls can create on bat barrels. (Some players prefer to leave them and let the skid marks accumulate, as a sort-of indicator of how much hitting he or she does; kind of like letting caps accumulate a white salt ring around the front team logo).
Baseball bat care can be divided into two types: long-term, and short-term for aesthetics. For long-term care, store bats indoors and out of direct sunlight or too much moisture. For the short term, keep them looking clean, shiny and scratch-free by carrying them around in bat bags, or special backpack-like baseball bags that have slots for one or more bats. Don’t let any bats roll around on concrete or soil surfaces full of pebbles or small rocks, as some scratch rather easily.
With metal bats, probably the area to watch for the most is at the bottom end: the grip on the handle, and the knob. The grip could be tape, or a thick type of adhesive such as faux leather, or special pocked or dimpled tape to further enhance a solid grip. Water and heat can deteriorate bat-handle grips pretty quickly, so if a player really likes how a bat feels in his hands, he should beware to protect that grip.
A metal bat knob can drive a player crazy if it becomes dislodged or loose. This was typical of old metal bats which could get loose and rattle, or really cause a sting with mis-hit balls, but the knobs today are pretty well-connected. Still, it’s a good idea to avoid throwing high-end bats around because there is no control over how it will strike the ground or another solid object. Also, it goes without saying that if you let another player use your bat, watch carefully how they treat it!
Related Questions on Baseball Bat Buying
Question: Can metal bats get dented?
Answer: With older-model metal bats, made exclusively of aluminum and not the high-tech alloys of today, maybe. It would be very, very difficult to dent today’s metal bats with barrels made of advanced-technology materials, at least during regular baseball play.
Q.: Do bats deteriorate after exposure to intense sunlight or heavy rains?
A.: Some metal bats might have the paint or decals fade, or (especially) the grips on the handles could fail entirely and require a re-taping, if left in the sun or rain too long. For the most part modern metal bats are fairly safe from losing effectiveness from the elements. That’s not so true for wooden bats which are very prone to damage from heat and moisture. Super-dry wooden bats are very prone to cracking or breaking.
Q.: Is a thick or thin bat handle better?
A.: Bat handle thickness will not impact how the bat performs. It is a matter of preference for each individual batter. Some hitters insist on a thinner handle, to more easily whip the bat head for the most torque (and therefore power) possible. Others like a thick handle to better control the bat head through the hitting zone. Still others will modify the handle, such as by rolling several layers of tape nearest the knob to make the thickness taper off near the bottom, or even higher up to make the grip somehow more comfortable. Bat handle thickness is all about comfort.
Q.: What would happen if Major League Baseball allowed use of metal bats?
A.: Bigger numbers in all the hitting statistical categories, and scary injuries for defenders especially pitchers. Metal bats propel a pitched baseball back toward fielders at velocities exceeding that when it was pitched. Some balls can leave the bat at 110 or 120 mph — and the pitcher, after striding to release the ball, is only about 52 or 53 feet away. Already with just wooden bats pitchers get hit with screaming line drives all the time. Metal bats would make it worse, and they will never be approved for use in MLB games.
Final Words on Best Baseball Bats for 2021
Choosing a new baseball bat today takes some knowledge of the advanced technologies involved — on top of going into the process knowing the weight, length and handle style you prefer. Know your league’s bat size and type requirements, and your batting style whether slap-hitting singles hitter or long-ball-crushing cleanup hitter, and take a peek at our top 9 best baseball bats to buy for 2021 and beyond.
Of all the equipment needed to play baseball, the bat is probably the one item where a player will carry multiple models. Serious baseball players will want options depending on the pitcher, such as a lighter model for a pitcher throwing high-velocity heat, or a bat longer in length for pitchers who like to paint the outside corner. They also might want backups in case their favorite gets damaged in the middle of a game.
As stated from the start, selecting a new baseball bat is important and can indeed improve hitting results. There is a tremendous amount of options among all the models in today’s baseball bat market. With a moderate amount of research, and maybe asking around the fields and among colleagues, baseball players can buy new bats that not only send balls screaming off the barrel, but also last long.
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