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Youth and little league baseball…one of the best pastimes around the world. Something that I always looked forward to every year was the new bats I could try out. If you are anything at all like me than you’re also probably wondering which 2018 models should be considered as the best USA youth baseball bats for the summer.
The upcoming youth season will probably be a bit more interesting than years past. As you probably have heard, as of January 1st, 2018, all bats for Little League, Intermediate and Junior League divisions must be approved with the new USA certification (known as USABat). More can be seen on this article. The major changes include:
- BPF 1.15 bats will no longer be allowed
- Diameter cannot exceed 2 5/8″
How to find 2018’s Best USA-approved bats
Because players will need to use a bat with the new USA stamp of approval, we have updated our chart below. There are still a couple in the list that do not meet the regulation. These will be updated when a new version is released.
I believe these bats make great choices for the 10 to 12 year old age group. For those players that are a bit older, you may want to check out the best BBCOR baseball bats page that we’ve put together.
Reviews of the top USA bats
I’m not sure if that was strange but I always liked to try various kinds before ultimately deciding which bat was my favorite. When I look at things now, I just can’t believe how far these bats have come. This section provides you with an overview for these excellent new USA approved choices.
One of the more popular bats (if not the most popular) over the past few years has been the Demarini Voodoo. Consistently providing a high level of performance at an affordable price, there is no doubt why the Voodoo has reigned supreme over the past few seasons. The brand new 2018 model (approved with the new USA logo) is the next evolution which should continue to allow youth players to launch homers to all sides of the field.
If you are familiar with Demarini products then you’ve probably heard for the X12 and X13 alloy versions from previous versions. The 2018 version of the Voodoo has been upgraded with the brand new X14 alloy which according to the product specifications contains a great amount of strength and better weight distribution. This will help ensure that you have a nice, smooth, and consistent swing all of the time. One of the worst things about a bat is feeling like you need to put extra effort in order to generate more power in your swing. The Voodoo should avoid this issue allowing you to focus on technique and consistency instead.
In addition to the X14 alloy, both the handle and end cap for the Voodoo have been fitted with 3Fusion technology. This should benefit you as a hitter as it also provides additional control and better swing optimization. In addition, the handle promises to reduce ball sting immensely.
Price is obviously an important decision as well when it comes to choosing your next bat. What is great about the Voodoo is that although it is not the cheapest bat, it certainly is nowhere close the most expensive either. For an elite bat made by a well known manufacturer, this one should be considered at the top of the list.
Louisville Select 718
If power is your game then the Louisville Slugger Select 718 might be your ideal choice. Whereas most regular players prefer more of a balanced swing, there are young players out there that are simply stronger and can swing a heavier bat with ease. This 2-piece hybrid constructed bat should add a lot of pop to your swings when compared to the others featured on this page.
Although the Select 718 series is a brand new offering by Louisville you can rest assured that you are receiving a high quality product.
After all Louisville has been in the business for numerous years and is considered the pioneer in baseball bats (their history traces back to the 1880’s). Construction wise, the Select 718 uses a newer ST 7U1+ alloy barrel. This barrel, according to the specification sheet, is supposed to provide a great amount of durability so you don’t have to find yourself replacing it any time soon. In addition to its high level of durability, it also contains a large amount of pop which hopefully helps turn your ground-rule doubles into homers.
There looks to be quite a bit to like with the handle area on the Select 718 as well. With its composite base and TRU3 technology, vibrations on bad hits should be minimal. The handle is also lined with brand new Lizard Skin grip which should provide a hitter with better feel and control of their swings. Lastly, the end cap (which is also new) has been re-designed to increase swing speed and provide more consistency when launching all of those homeruns.
Easton Ghost X
If you have never heard of Easton before then you have probably been living under a rock. Just about any team or field will have something with the Easton name attached to it. Probably one of the most influential brands right now, the Ghost X certified by the USA baseball stamp has all the makings to be a highly sought after bat.
So what is so exciting about the Ghost X other than the interesting name choice? For one thing while most models try and specialize for the type of hitter (i.e. power vs contact), the Ghost X has tried its best to provide benefits for both hitter types. Using a newer EXACT carbon composite material in the barrel the barrel provides new performance improvements along with a reduction in ball sting so mis-hits don’t hurt nearly as much. Although this technology is brand new for Easton, I am guessing it will be great with all of the testing and innovation they do.
But what about the “X” in “Ghost X”…what does that stand for? With this model, Easton added what they call an “X-Tended” barrel which is believed to be the longest composite barrel available right now. With a larger surface area, more hits should come as well. One of the other great aspects is the amount of grip applied to the handle of the Ghost X. With a 1.4 mm length, this grip should keep your hands comfortable and provide a nice fluid consistent swing.
As always Easton seems to come out with exiting products each and every year. I am guessing the Ghost X will continue in that path.
The next brand new USA-approved youth bat we think will increase your performance is the Rawlings Velo. This model itself has been around for a while but has been modified to meet the brand new USA stamp of approval. In addition, for those looking for a less expensive option, this one might fit the bill and is the lowest priced when compared to the others.
The Velo is a 1-piece bat which is some player’s eyes makes it more durable since it is not fused with two different materials. If you’ve ever watched any sort of youth or little league game, you can always tell by the noise of the ball hitting the bat when a good swing has been made. That “ping” noise is supposedly more prominent in the Velo than other models and hence they have nicknamed the barrel “acoustic alloy”. Now even though it promises to make a great sound when smacking a liner, it is also backed up by the high performance pOp 2.0 technology. This innovative barrel should provide a bit more flex and help to make harder contact.
Although power hitters may not like this feature as much, the end cap in the Rawlings Velo sounds quite interesting. Instead of generating additional power, the end cap has been made to be a bit lighter allowing a hitter to generate quicker swing speeds. This helps quite a bit when you face flame throwing pitchers on the other side.
Archived reviews for non-USA youth bats
As a former little league player I always have a fond recollection of when I was young and having my parents take me to the baseball field near our home. I remember the trips we’d take to various tournaments and just having a good time with my friends. We certainly weren’t the most talented bunch – you wouldn’t see us on TV at the Little League world series – but we really enjoyed ourselves!
Want to know a little more detail on what we think are the best non-USA approved little league bats on the market today? If so this section provides you with a quick review on each bat outlining some of its top features.
For many hitters, I feel like the Demarini Vexxum NVS would be the perfect fit. One of the main reasons for this assertion is the price point of under $150. The premier bats that we describe further below like the CF8 and Mako are quite a bit more expensive and are typically reserved for more advanced, competitive players. So other than price, why do I believe that the Vexxum would provide you with the most benefit?
For one it features a -12 drop so it is quite light to swing. For younger players this is quite important and when you start getting into the -11 and -10 drop your performance may suffer unless you have ample strength. In fact Demarini has indicated that the Vexxum is their lightest swinging aluminum alloy based bat in their line-up.
Another great feature or attribute that might resonate with players is the fact that it is a two-piece model consisting of an X12 alloy barrel and a C6 composite based handle. So how does a two-piece bat help a player? Although somewhat debated in baseball circles, many believe that a two-piece bat provides a hitter with more flex on contact therefore providing more of a trampoline effect when making good contact. Two-piece system has also been known to provide less sting on mishits.
One final point to make about the 2016 Vexxum related to performance is the larger sweet spot that is now included. Keeping the same barrel length, the barrel has been made slightly longer providing you with a larger hitting surface. It doesn’t take a rocket science to realize that the larger the hitting area, the more success you’ll have. Read our full review.
Easton Mako Beast
The Easton Mako Beast is the most expensive choice in our list and is primarily suited for competitive players due to the cost. But my guess is if you can get your hands on this one, you’ll notice an immediate improvement in your swing and distance. Although marketed as a balanced bat, it is still heavier to swing as it features a -10 drop. Therefore heavier and stronger youth players would be able to do more damage with this one.
So what are some things that make the Mako Torq stand out from the others besides price? Arguably the most advanced feature is how the bat has been built. Since the Mako was invented, Easton has used TCT Thermo Composite as the basis for both the barrel & handle components. The technology provides a few main benefits including a larger sweet spot, a more efficient swing speed, and more comfort on contact (even on mishits). The barrel and handle are then fused together using Easton’s own 2-PC Connexion technology. This technology in itself helps in transferring the most amount of energy possible towards the end of the barrel almost creating a launching effect of sorts.
Another point that I should mention about this model is TORQ 360 degree rotating handle technology that is used. This is quite the innovation! As hitters we always try to rotate our hands during the swing but are often hampered by a stiff handle. This technology allows you to shorten up when needed or lengthen your swing when you get the perfect pitch to take for a ride. It really is quite the innovation not seen on any other bats. Read our full review.
Demarini CF Zen
Year after year, a model from Demarini always makes our list. The CF series itself is a long time member going back all the way to the CF5 version used 5 years ago. Since then this incredible bat has gone through four additional iterations and still remains a must own for youth players. Similar to the Mako mentioned earlier, the price point is a bit higher than average and hence is typically reserved for more competitive players. One of the main differences between this premier bat and the Mako mentioned earlier however is that the CF Zen features a -11 drop making it lighter and easier to swing.
So what makes this years CF Zen version so popular and sought after? One of the main benefits is that the barrel includes the newest Paraflex composite material as its base. This barrel has been extended ever so slightly to provide the hitter with a larger more responsive sweet spot – hopefully giving you more opportunities to crush the ball over the outfielders heads. The Paradox Plus+ composite material also promises to provide a quicker break in time and be ready to perform right after purchase.
Another newer feature to note in this years CF Zen version is the handle. There are a couple of great benefits provided to hitters when using Demarini’s own D-Fusion 2.0 handle system. The first is the amount of extra flex it will provide. This additional flex aids in transferring all of the energy you’ve generated and transfers it right out to the barrel. At the same time, the handle has also taken care of the dreaded ball sting that can occur on mis-hits by reducing vibrations substantially.
In short, if you are looking for a more trusted bat to put your money towards there may be no better choice than the CF8. While the Mako Beast has additional bells & whistles, it is still relatively new which could factor into your decision making process. Read our full review.
The next of your youth bat reviews takes a quick look at the Easton XL3 which outside of the Mako was quite a popular choice last season. One of the main reasons for its popularity was the amount of power a hitter could generate despite it being a -11 drop bat.
First and foremost unlike most of the other bats we’ve looked at so far, the XL3 itself is a one-piece bat. AS you can imagine a one-piece bat would provide very little flex when compared to its two-piece counterparts and therefore would be feel stiffer to swing. Because there is far less flex than a two-piece bat, less energy is lost and therefore more power is generated straight out of the barrel. As a pre-caution however, most one-piece bats are typically meant for stringer players largely due to the fact that they are so stiff and feel heavier to swing.
Another difference when compared to the other youth bats we’ve looked at is the material used. While most in our list use a Composite base, the XL3 uses an aluminum alloy called the Hyperlite Matrix. This alloy features an expanded sweet spot with a longer barrel giving you the hitter a larger hitting surface. Another key component to this alloy is that is promises to be more durable than ever before. As a parent, one of the biggest concerns is your child only being able to use their bat for a season or two. Hopefully with careful maintenance, the XL3 can last your child much longer than that. Read our full review.
It’s quite hard to make a recommendation that fits well for each single player, especially when it comes to youth bats. For instance players in the 6 to 9 year old age group may not get as much benefit from the ones we have highlighted above as they simply aren’t strong enough or swing with enough velocity to make a huge impact. However those in the 10, 12, or 14 year old age groups may be looking at the more experience competitive models to take their game to the next level.
Based on the reviews above, we believe that the Demarini Vexxum will be perfect for most players regardless of the league they play in. Less expensive than the Easton Mako Torq and the Demarini CF8, we believe that the Vexxum could be considered as a premier choice for the average youth players.
That being said, the Easton Mako Torq, and Demarini CF8 would make fantastic choices for slightly experienced youth players or players that really want the newest and greatest in bat technology. I’ll be honest, the 360 degree rotation handle found in the Mako Torq sounds absolutely incredible!
How to choose the right sized youth bat
Nothing is more important than choosing the correctly sized equipment when you play baseball. A glove that’s too small, a helmet that’s too big, or a bat that just doesn’t feel right, are enough to insure you never play to match your ability. Youth bat sizes generally fall into the 26 inch to 32 inch range, with a 2 ¼ inch barrel and a drop weight from -7 to -13. Sizing a bat correctly is probably one of the easiest things you can do, and if you can’t figure out one method, don’t worry we included three.
Measuring bat length
Although there are many different ways to measure for the best baseball bat length, the best way is to choose what you feel comfortable swinging. A general rule to follow is never go up more than an inch at a time. This makes it easier to adjust to your new bat without drastically changing your swing. If you’re new to the game or want to re-size yourself, follow the steps below to learn how to properly measure yourself:
- First and easiest way to make the measurement is by standing up with your arm stretched straight out to your side, then have someone measure from the center of your chest to the tips of your fingers.
- Second way, and also easy, is put the end of the handle in the center of your chest, straight out in front of you. If you can just reach the barrel, you are in the right range of length.
Third way is to hold the handle let the bat hang down beside you. If the tip just touches the ground you have a decent length for your height.
- The fourth and fifth quick guideline if you don’t have the youth handy for measurements is that if the child is between 3’ and 3’4” tall, you should start with a 26” bat. Each 4 to 5 inches they are over the 3’4” mark should increase the bat length by 1 inch. If you don’t know the height, but know their weight, less than 60 pounds should have a bat between 26” and 29”, while more than 70 pounds should increase the bat length to between 26 and 29 inches.
All five of these ways are great approximates, and take your height and reach into account, but they are only guidelines, and really don’t take into account your preferences and other factors like drop weight.
Drop weight is a measurement of weight for your bat and the lower the number the higher the weight, the higher the weight the more power behind the bat. Once again, the weight preference is personal, but the best way to measure it is with the following formula; bat weight minus bat length. So as an example, a 20 ounce bat with a 30 inch length would give you a -10 drop weight, and a 20 ounce bat with a 32 inch length will give you a -12 drop weight. Easy right?
Finally, remember to check all the rules and regulations for your league. You don’t want to show up ready to play like a pro just to find out the equipment you have isn’t allowed!
Composite or Wooden bats?
When deciding on the best youth baseball bats for your swing one consideration that should be made is wooden vs composite material. The debate between the use of wooden bats and composite ones has raged on for ages, and while there are pros and cons for each there are a lot of people who feel that wood bats are the only way to really enjoy the game, and to insure its fairness composite bats should be banned from the sport. Purists would have you believe that the only way to show the skill of the batter is with a level playing field of similar branded wood because when a composite bat is introduced it says more to the bat makers skill and design than the batters ability. But the truth of the matter is that as you improve your skill the style of bat only matters as far as fit and weight preference. But before you get to the MLB level of play, which should you choose, a composite or a wooden bat?
First things first, personal preference plays so much in this choice that apart from states that mandate wood use only, people play with what they are comfortable with. If the feel of the wood and taped handle is what they like, you can go blue in the face telling them why composite is better and they won’t even care. Similarly, people who prefer a more scientific hit, and want to insure their hits are as accurate and unaffected by natural and environmental factors, will refuse to acknowledge the feel of a bat and its warmth as a contributing factor to game play.
More on Composite bats
While generally speaking composites are preferred by youth and little league players for their balance and additional “pop” caused by the larger sweet spot and literally millions of dollars in research and development by some of the finest minds and engineers around the world, are they really that much better overall?
Given that a bat made from composites can be balanced to the hundredth of an inch, and end loaded for maximum hitting power what does wood have to offer? Wooden bats can be used right at purchase, as soon as you unwrap your bat, you can start to hit with it, where a composite requires up to 200 hits to become broken in, and suitable for play. Remember to rotate the bat for each hit as well to evenly break it in, and not overly stress a single side or spot.
More on Wooden bats
Wooden bats have no real temperature constraints beyond what you would normally play in as they are generally kiln dried and have no moisture to weaken them in freezing temperatures, while composites require a minimum of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Any lower temperatures and the fibers start to crack and fray weakening the bat immensely and generally causing irreparable damage.
Generally wooden bats are a lot cheaper than composites of higher quality and tend to be favorites of families not looking to invest hundreds in a quality composite bat, though some of the newer composites are coming down in price, and soon may be comparable. But a little bit of a sway back to the composite happens when you realize the cheapest wooden bats do crack or suffer when mishit and the sting in your hands is a real reminder of one of the biggest pros of a composite bat. What is this big difference? Composite bats have little to no sting when your hit is off center, with a designer sweet spot; it’s a lot harder to do.
That is a general breakdown of the differences, and covers the major pros and cons, but once again its almost solely a matter of personal preference. Play with what feels right to you, and you will always play your best!
Big Barrel or Small Barrel – Which should you go with?
It seems that people who are getting started in baseball always have the same question; what should I get? A big or small barrel?
Well, in all honesty it depends what you are gunning for. Are you looking for power or finesse? Is your goal to become an exceptional accuracy hitter, or simply a powerhouse? While this is really oversimplifying things, it brings the main points into play.
Advantages of Larger barrel
Generally people looking for a bigger barrel are also looking for a weighted end that, if swung well, can connect with the full weight behind the ball giving it an exceptional pop and sending it to the deep field more often than not. One of the negatives that comes from starting a player out with a big barrel though is a lazy hitting style. With a larger barrel, there is a much bigger chance of connecting. But with a smaller better, a new player learns from the beginning how to finesse the bat and not simply swing for the bleachers every time.
Advantages of Smaller barrels
Learning to be accurate is so much easier with a lighter more slender bat, as it is harder to get a exact hit on a smaller surface. But once your body has trained to hit with a thinner bat, it is so much easier to build up the size and weight to gain power. Going from a small barrel that you are accurate with, to a big barrel is like hitting with a chopstick and moving up to telephone pole, while a little exaggerated, the thought is that once proficient with a small surface, a large surface is easier to hit with. Once proficient with a smaller surface, the accuracy on a large surface should be high enough to take you from a decent batter to a near pro powerhouse and insuring you have the skills to control the hits.
Regardless of which you choose though, practice is the key. If becoming the perfect hitter is your goal, practice, and if being the homerun king is what you strive for, practice some more. So go out, pick the bat that you feel comfortable with, and start hitting. No matter what you use, the more you do it, the better you will get.
Well there you have it. We hope that you have enjoyed our look at the best bats for youth and little league players.