Best Wood Bats – Tips from professional baseball players
An overview of which wood bats are being used by professional baseball players, as well as some pro tips to help you pick out the best wood baseball bats for your needs.
I’ve been swinging a wood bat for 16 years, and professionally for 10 years. I’ve tried a LOT of different models and wood types, as well as learning from other players about their preferences.
In this article, I’ve tried to compile info about your top bat choices and combined it with some of the knowledge I’ve gained in my years as professional baseball player.
Tips for Buying a Wood Bat (click to open)
How much does wood quality matter in a wood bat? Buying a wood bat that will last, may seem like a flip of a coin. The quality of the wood will not prevent a bat from breaking. However, using nice wood will help keep the bat together instead of flaking apart when you hit the ball in the same place over and over again (the barrel).
Where do you buy good wood bats? Unless you find a really nice sporting goods store (which can be hard to find), buying a wood bat online is your best bet to find a quality bat. Usually bat companies have different quality grades for their wood and the worst are sent out to the sporting good stores, unless the owner purposely gets the more expensive bats.
How much does a good quality wood bat cost? Quality wood baseball bats are not cheap (especially if you factor in that you may break it in one swing), but you don’t need to overpay for a wood bat. A nice piece of wood is in the range of $50-$100. Some bat prices are so expensive because you are paying for the name on the label of the bat. Once you get to a certain level of wood, just because you pay more doesn’t mean you are getting more bat.
Is it better to buy a wood bat from the big, name-brand companies? In my experience, large companies have so much demand for bats that they can be a little more expensive and you don’t always get quality wood because they are just trying to keep up with the orders. Smaller companies have the ability to use better pieces of wood because they don’t have as many people ordering bats. However, I have received both good and bad bats from large and small bat companies. Don’t take this as an absolute, but consider it when purchasing bats.
Maple vs Ash (click to open)
Northern white ash is the most common wood bat available. It has a little flex in the bat (similar to some aluminum bats) which is popular because it may have a little extra whip.
When using ash you need to hit with the grains. That means you want the grains of the bat to be facing the pitcher. A good indicator is to take the label on the bat and have it facing straight up in the air, or have it facing the ground. The label is printed on top of the grains so if it is pointed up or down at contact you will be in the optimal position. This has been proven to be the strongest part of the bat for exit ball speed and overall bat durability.
Pros for Ash bat
- Usually a little less expensive than maple bats.
- Has a little flex in the wood (similar to some aluminum bats)
- When it breaks is usually stays together, thus keeping flying bat shards to a minimum.
Cons for Ash bat
- Wood grains start to flake (sometimes after the first use), and your bat will eventually lose all density in its barrel. So even if the bat is still in one piece, the barrel could be in such bad shape that the bat can’t be used.
- Ash is softer wood compared to maple
- Not as durable as maple.
Maple bats exploded onto the scene about 10 years ago. Maple is a harder, more dense wood than ash. It doesn’t have the same flex as an ash bat, but once you get used to using one, it isn’t really noticeable. Also, a maple bat can be heavier than an ash bat of the same size. This is good for power but bad for bat speed.
Note about safety: The label on maple bats is stamped with the grains rather than on the top like ash. There was a MLB study done in 2008 because so many maple bats were shattering when breaking, potentially causing serious injury. The results of this study was, when baseballs are hit on top of the maple bats wood grains opposed to with the grains, (like you would with ash) the bat is more durable. So for 2009 maple bats changed the location of their label, (you still want the label pointing up or down at contact). They also include a ink mark that will run depending on the quality of the wood. If the wood does not meet certain specifications it can’t be sold.
Pros for Maple bats
- Harder, more dense piece of wood, compared to ash, so a perfectly hit ball will travel farther.
- Doesn’t flake, making it last for ever as long as you don’t break it. Very durable.
- Dense wood grains give the bats a “trophy shine”
Cons for Maple bats
- Usually a little more expensive than ash bats.
- When it breaks it usually shatters, and you have to deal with flying pieces of bat.
- Heavier than an Ash bat of the same size
These are wood bat companies which are most popular with pro players, and who are known to put out a dependable, quality wood bat. When looking for your best wood bats, these companies are putting out good quality. REMEMBER, some of these companies make bats at all different quality levels, so don’t expect to find the best baseball bats in your average big-box sports store, even if you recognize the name brand.
Louisville Slugger is the oldest, largest, and most used bat company. You know Louisville is the standard because almost every other bat company names their own bats using Louisville’s models and letter/number combo (or some variation).
All Louisville models come in ash or maple. The models you would be able to find from online dealers would be:
- C271 – small handle, small barrel
- C243 – small handle, large barrel
- M110 – med/large handle, medium barrel
- P72 – small handle, long medium barrel (is probably the most similar to aluminum bat styles)
- R161 – large handle, large barrel
BaseballRampage.com (free shipping and free return shipping) and HittingWorld.com have good selections
Louisville Slugger MLB Prime wood bat
Note: Louisville Slugger has released the “MLB Prime” family of wood bats, which they claim is the the same the quality wood they would use if they were making a bat for Derek Jeter, now finally made available to the public. At $119 – $129 a pop, these bad boys are definitely at the top of the price range for wood bats. Baseball Express seems to have one of the larger selections MLB Prime bats – including ash, which can be harder to find (also they’re doing free shipping and free returns for all bat orders).
Marucci wood bat
Is becoming one of the best wood bats in the industry. Each bat is bone rubbed which condenses the wood and makes it a little more durable. Their maple bats are more popular than their ash bats but they are used by a number of MLB players. They are very consistent in giving high quality wood to all.
BaseballRampage.com and HittingWorld.com have Marucci wood bats.
Phoenix Wood Bats (I use this cherry finish for most of my bats)
Phoenix Bat Company
The Phoenix Bat Company is a smaller up-and-coming bat company that uses top quality maple and ash. This is where I get my bats.
They have great customer service and they have the ability to customize orders. I use their bats exclusively because they worked with me to come up with my perfect custom model (D357m). I consistently receive good hard bats from them which can sometimes be frustrating with other companies.
If you get a bat from Phoenix Bat Co, use the code DOUGB10 and you’ll get 10% off. Also, right now they’re offering free shipping, free engraving, and you can actually try the bat for 10 days and still send it back if you don’t like it. (Most companies don’t let you return a bat once it’s been used).
B45 Yellow Birch Bats
Are made from Canadian yellow birch wood. These bats are very strong and get better over time. They definitely get harder and the ball comes off harder once it gets broken in a bit.
Birch is interesting because it has similar flex as an ash bat but the durability of maple. These bats can be made light and not lose any durability unlike some other wood. “Best birch bat on the market.” “Their models differ slightly from louisville sluggers (ie. the C243 barrel isn’t as big on the B45).” (Jordan Parraz)
Uses very hard wood. I think their maple is some of the best around. Finding the good quality Rawlings wood bats can be challenging at times. But when you find one it is a very dense piece of wood.
There are many different types of Rawlings bats, but in short, stick with their pro maple and you’ll get a good bat. Rawlings Baseball Bats
Quality bat company that offers both ash and maple, but maple being the most used Old Hickory bat. Consistent made bats that come out the same every time. The barrels on the bats seem to be a little smaller than the Louisville model it was made after. They also feature composite bats, which can be a good alternative if you are worried about broken bats. You will not be disappointed with any Old Hickory bat.
Old Hickory bats can be hard to find. BaseballExp.com has some of the pro models, and Hitting World has youth sizes and the Custom Pro Series bats (these are a step down from the professional models, but still good bats).
Mizuno Wood Bat
High quality japanese ash and maple. These bats can be very hard and have good pop. Mizuno is one of the top baseball companies around that pride themselves on tradition and high quality products.
I haven’t used Mizuno bats, but the company has a good reputation for making quality baseball products. Again, these bats aren’t sold everywhere, but you can find them at baseballrampage.com (free shipping and return shipping).
Get the feel of using a wood bat without the fear of breaking your bat. Baum bats are a wood composite that looks, sounds, and feels like wood but will not break. They are about the cost of 2-3 wood bats but you will only need one. This is a great bat for a child learning to use a wood bat for the first time. Also this bat can be used in many wood bat leagues which is nice as well.
These are good bats. There no other way to say it. I’ve never seen a bat come away completely spotless after smashing a baseball to the outfield – until the Chandler bats. Usually the baseball leaves a mark of some kind when it hits a wood bat, but not on these bats. I use Chandler bats and I highly recommend them.
How to order a Chandler bat… There are only a few ways to get a chandler bat. Contact the company directly at 877-497-2287 or firstname.lastname@example.org for new retail orders, or if you are a pro player then shoot an email to email@example.com for pro orders. Or justbats.com for a smaller selection of stock.
Our Comparison chart for Online Stores can help you pick where to order your bats. See who has free shipping, free return shipping, how long you have to return stuff, etc.
More from Baseball-Insider.com