In this article we review what we believe to be the best youth baseball bats for 2020 to earn the USA stamp of approval.
On January 1, 2018, the major youth baseball leagues in the U.S. all adopted the new USA Baseball (the governing body for the sport) standards for baseball bats.
By rule, the performance of even the best USA bats is only equal that of the highest performing wooden bats. The youth baseball bat reviews below represent a wide swath in both performance and cost. As we shall see, the two don’t always correlate.
Top 10 Best Youth USA Baseball Bat Reviews for 2020
Here are the best youth USA baseball bats 2020:
- Top Pick: 2020 Easton ADV 360 (-11)
- Runner-Up: 2020 Louisville Slugger Select
- Most Proven: 2020 Rawlings Quatro Pro
- Old Faithful: 2020 DeMarini CF Zen
- Budget Blaster: 2020 Easton Fuze 360
- Best Skinny Barrel: 2020 Louisville Slugger Solo SPD
- Most Anticipated: 2020 Marucci CAT
- Best Facelift: 2020 Rawlings Velo ACP
- Most Overlooked: 2020 Mizuno B20-Hot Metal
- Most Innovative: 2020 Axe Avenge One
Top Pick: 2020 Easton ADV 360 (-11)
The Easton ADV 360 gets its name from the fact that it is both advanced and is tuned in 360 degrees. Like its predecessor, the Project 3 ADV, the ADV 360 is a two-piece, all-composite design. It has the balanced weight that contact hitters prefer, but its new composite barrel makes it one of the USA bats with the most pop.
The all-important impact is powerful, but comfort is king with the ADV 360. Easton achieves that level of comfort and added handle flex with an interlocking connection piece (iSo ConneXion). A Nitrocell foam insert further isolates the barrel from the handle to help reduce felt vibrations.
Further reducing the sting is the Power Boost Soft Knob, which incorporates a slight flare at the bottom of the handle to aid the player in gaining leverage. The handle consists of 90 percent carbon fiber to improve both bat strength and feel. Finally, a Lizard Skins grip lends tack and cushioning.
The business end of the bat is just that: all business. The 2 5/8 inch, Ultra-Lite Launch Comp barrel is tuned around its circumference. There are no hot spots to seek out and find. Easton pushed the performance values all the way to the limit for USA-approved bats.
Unlike many other composite barrels, there is practically no warm-up period. All versions of the ADV 360 are hot, but the drop-11 is one of the hottest USA bats out of the wrapper. It is the only one in the stable with the Ultra-Lite Launch Comp composite skin.
The ADV 360 is a major leap forward for Easton, which had lost some of its grip on the market since the USA rules were adopted. Being one of the few all-composite drop-11 bats, the Easton ADV 360 – which featured prominently in the 2019 Little League World Series – promises to be among the coolest youth baseball bats and a must-have in 2020.
What we like (and don’t like) about the 2020 ADV 360 USA bat:
- Only bat in Easton’s lineup with new Ultra-Lite Launch Composite barrel.
- New, first-year designed destined for legendary status in USA.
- Proprietary Lizard Skins grip is comfy and tacky.
- Smooth, balanced and ultra-light.
- New tapered soft knob improves leverage.
- Unproven composite material.
- Among the most expensive new bats.
Runner-Up: 2020 Louisville Slugger Select
The 2020 Louisville Slugger Select is a three-piece hybrid bat that is primed to be a workhorse in leagues where USA-approved bats are the law. Its composite handle performs just like those on the all-composite competition, but its aluminum barrel resists breaking much better than carbon.
The carbon fiber composite handle joins to the barrel with Slugger’s Vibration Control Connection System (VCX). The VCX connection allows the handle to flex and absorb vibrations just like an all-composite bat.
For 2020, the Select bats retain the ST 7U1+ aluminum alloy that earned a stellar reputation for power and longevity that made previous versions of the Select one of the best-value bats around. The Speed Ballistic Composite endcap lightens the bat end, giving the 2020 Select an even, balanced swing weight.
Louisville Slugger’s LS Pro Comfort grip is tacky and cushioned, helping eat vibrations on mis-hits and keeping the player’s hands connected through the swing. The 2020 Select gets a noticeable whip-crack lag from the VCX joint’s flex, and the proprietary alloy provides pop equal to that of any composite bat.
The only thing players are sacrificing with this three-piece aluminum hybrid bat is a bit of the large sweet spots that composite barrels provide. When squared up, there is no discernible difference between the two, especially with the limitations of the USA Baseball bat rules.
What we like (and don’t like) about the 2020 LS Select:
- Proprietary aluminum is thin and hot.
- Requires no warm-up period/hot and ready.
- Carbon fiber handle provides flex for extra pop.
- Trampoline effect rivals that of any USA-approved composite bat.
- Reduces stinging vibrations as well as most composite bats.
- Slightly smaller sweet spot than many composite bats.
- More expensive than most all-aluminum bats.
Most Proven: 2020 Rawlings Quatro Pro
Very few if any USA-approved composite bats can compete with the Rawlings Quatro Pro (-12) when it comes to overall light swing weights. Still, even though the competition is thin, the Quatro Pro is a standout.
The 2020 Quatro Pro has a redesigned Focused Flex connection collar, which is stiffer than previous models. This stiffness helps eliminate the bat-end drag that can lead to inside-out contact. Still, the vibration dampening of the connection remains impressive.
The 2 5/8 inch composite barrel has plenty of pop, though it’s obviously limited to USA Baseball specs. The real advantage of the composite here is in the length of the barrel section, among the longest, in addition to the lightest USA baseball bat.
Inside that barrel are one of the key innovations of the Quatro Pro. Rawlings’ use of carbon discs staggered strategically along the center provides extra strength and pop, along with the Quatro’s distinctive impact sound.
Topping off the comfort package is a Lizard Skins grip, which has quickly become the most popular grip in youth baseball for its cushioning and unrivaled tack.
Sure, the Quatro Pro is among the most expensive sticks for 2020, but it has the largest sweet spot and lightest swing feel among even the best USA bats.
What we like (and don’t like) about the 2020 Quatro Pro:
- Available in other swing weights.
- Carbon disc inserts add strength and pop.
- Lizard Skins grips are comfortable and popular.
- New connection collar stiffer than most.
- Large sweet spot instills confidence.
- Despite reputation for longevity, carbon can always crack.
- Requires a concerted break-in effort.
Old Faithful: 2020 DeMarini CF Zen
One of the best USA baseball bats of last year returns unchanged for 2020, save for an updated end cap and paint scheme. The new version retains the two-piece, all-composite construction that made it among the best youth baseball bats.
Much can be said (and has) in USA bat reviews about how aluminum performs equally to composite in the this sphere of baseball, and that much is true. No alloy barrel can compete with the CF Zen’s extra-long sweet spot though, even if longevity is a question mark.
Starting with the good, the Paraflex Plus composite barrel is designed for a large, responsive sweet spot. A classic carbon design, the CF Zen will require the usual hit-turn-hit break-in period. Soon enough, one of the youth bats with the most pop will emerge. It just won’t have the pop of the USSSA version.
The CF Zen looks odd at first because of its longish handle. The design is intentional though, as it improves the bat’s balance. The drop-10 version is sneaky long for its weight, providing hitters with great plate coverage. The eye-catching connection collar increases flex for more power and vibration absorption.
Unfortunately for DeMarini, it has some new competition that is lighter with larger sweet spots. That shouldn’t take away from this winning stick. It remains among the highest-rated composite bats and – even unchanged from its previous version – one of the best baseball bats for youth players.
What we like (and don’t like) about the 2020 CF Zen:
- An instant classic.
- Tapered design makes hitters better.
- Maximum handle flex for superior pop.
- Not overly light, so power hitters can use it.
- One of the largest sweet spots in a best-selling bat.
- DeMarini is relying on reputation rather than innovation.
- Has a reputation for self-destructing after heavy use.
Budget Blaster: 2020 Easton Fuze 360
Judging by its popularity in the 2019 World Series games, one of the best Little League bats in 2020 has to be the Easton Fuze 360. The players had access to Easton’s full lineup of USA certified bats – composite and aluminum – but consistently used this aluminum stick.
At first glance, the drop-10-only Fuze 360’s popularity seems to be a mystery. The kids could use the expensive composite bats, but many consistently went for the (comparatively) inexpensive Fuze 360. Look a little deeper, though, and things become a little more clear.
The Fuze 360 utilizes Easton’s ATAC aluminum alloy, which allows it to have the thinnest walls of any bat in USA baseball. Like the ADV 360, it is tuned for consistency in 360 degrees around the 2 5/8 inch barrel, so there are no hot spots or dead zones. The thin skin is reinforced with Carbon-Core technology.
Like most of the best 2020 USA bats, the Fuze 360 has an extra-long composite end cap, in this case a forged one. These styles of end caps actually improve the trampoline effect from the thin aluminum skin.
Another key feature of the Fuze 360 is its superior comfort level for a one-piece aluminum bat. It has the same Power Boost soft knob as the ADV 360, which helps improve the player’s leverage during the swing. It also helps reduce the vibrations from poor hits that cause many hitters to prefer composite.
A custom, Easton-only design Lizard Skins grip completes the package. These grips are among the best-rated grips in the game, thanks to a squishy feel and unrivaled tack.
With the limitations placed on today’s bats, all-aluminum bats like the Fuze 360 are experiencing a renaissance. They represent the best value for the money in youth baseball because they are nigh impossible to break. There is no break-in period, and they sacrifice little to nothing to carbon in terms of performance.
What we like (and don’t like) about the 2020 Easton Fuze 360:
- All-aluminum, one-piece design means little can go wrong.
- Thinnest skin of any top-rated USA aluminum bat.
- Ready to go out of the wrapper.
- Lizard Skins grip and soft knob improve leverage and absorb shock.
- Drop-10 swing weight works for contact hitters and power strokers.
- Only available in -10 form.
- All-aluminum design has smaller sweet spot than composite.
Best Skinny Barrel: 2020 Louisville Slugger Solo SPD
The first thing to note about the one-piece aluminum Louisville Slugger Solo SPD is that it has a 2 ½ inch barrel. Most of the major youth baseball leagues allow players to use 2 5/8 inch barrels, but that does not mean the big-barrel sticks are for everyone. They aren’t.
Smaller players, younger ones and undersized kids can all perform as well or better with a 2 ½ inch barrel. These sticks tend to have lighter swing weights like the drop-13 Solo SPD. Like Ted Williams figured out, light bats go faster, and speed equals power.
The SL Hyper alloy enables the Solo SPD to have the thinnest skin in Louisville Slugger’s impressive aluminum lineup. It provides a trampoline effect as good as any other USA bat, right up to the limits allowed.
Solo SPD bats have a balanced swing weight, made even smoother by the Speed Ballistic end cap. That end cap also gives the Solo SPD a cool-looking top that players gravitate to.
The Solo SPD also has the same LS Pro Comfort Grip from the far more expensive Louisville Slugger Select, which helps to dampen vibrations on poor hits.
What we like (and don’t like) about the 2020 LS Solo SPD:
- Among the lightest youth baseball bats.
- Skinnier barrel helps smaller players make contact.
- Aluminum is stronger and longer-lived than composite.
- Drop-13 swing weight among the lightest USA-approved bats.
- Many players frown on small-barrel bats, though they shouldn’t.
- Light weight unsuitable for many power hitters.
Most Anticipated: 2020 Marucci CAT
One of the most popular names youth baseball of recent times finally makes its appearance in USA Baseball. The much-anticipated Marucci CAT now bears a USA stamp, though this isn’t quite your older brother’s CAT8.
To begin with, the eight different wall thicknesses that gave the CAT8 its name and its spring are down to seven layers in the USA-approved bat. The trampoline effect is down as well, but that is to be expected. Otherwise, USA wouldn’t have approved it.
Otherwise, players who have hit with a CAT8 will instantly recognize the bat. In its earlier form, the CAT8 was disqualified by USSSA Baseball for excessive performance. But what really made it popular was its superior comfort level, and the 2020 Marucci CAT retains all of that.
The new CAT has a second-generation AV2 anti-vibration knob, an update on the previous version that was so forgiving on mis-hits. This system uses harmonic tuning to dampen vibrations and remove the stinging sensation.
Marucci’s grip is micro perforated and soft without being squishy. It works together with the AV2 knob to make the CAT super comfortable. Balancing is precise, promoting an even and fluid swing.
The USA CAT is so similar to a CAT8 that it is hard to tell the difference, until it connects.
What we like (and don’t like) about the Marucci CAT:
- Finally, a USA-approved Marucci CAT.
- Priced more competitively than the CAT8.
- As much barrel flex as the law will allow.
- Same AV2 vibration-damping knob as in the CAT8.
- Same tough, thin AZ105 alloy as the CAT8.
- Not the same spring as a CAT8.
- The new kid always has a lot to prove.
Best Facelift: 2020 Rawlings Velo ACP
The Rawlings Velo ACP is designed for speed. The 2020 version is the latest update on what has been one of the best-selling 2 5/8 inch aluminum bats in the USA leagues since the new bat rule became law.
The key technology here is an Accelerated Carbon Composite end cap that extends 2 inches into the end of the bat. Otherwise, it is an all-aluminum construction – still the Ai909 acoustic alloy that has proven itself in the trenches.
In drop-10 form, the hybrid Velo ACP competes well with other one-piece aluminum sticks. Its laser-etched Pop 2.0 groove provides a little extra punch, but it is still hampered by the same deadening rule as all the USA bats. As we said, the Velo ACP is all about speed.
The drop-5 option slows things down a bit. It gives power hitters a bit more of the heft they usually prefer, but most players using the Velo ACP will probably be top-of-the-order guys with a drop-10 in their hands. Both bats feature a vibration-damping handle.
The new graphics and dark paint on the Velo ACP are striking. They meld well with the carbon fiber weave on the end cap. Players will gravitate to it for its looks, but the performance shouldn’t leave them disappointed. Speed is power, after all.
What we like (and don’t like) about the 2020 Velo ACP:
- Composite end cap is effective, if not original.
- Takes swing weight right up to the limit.
- Knob-based vibration dampening helps reduce stinging.
- Promotes fast and fluid swings.
- Laser-etched groove on sweet spot for more flex.
- Composite end cap introduces a possible breakage point.
- There are lighter, cheaper all-aluminum option.
Most Overlooked: 2020 Mizuno B20 Hot Metal
The Mizuno B20 Hot Metal is a star in USSSA baseball, but USA baseball bat reviews have yet to give it much love. That’s unfortunate, because Mizuno has earned its stellar reputation in the game. Its equipment is often the best value in any equipment category in baseball.
The B20 Hot Metal USA edition is a one-piece aluminum alloy bat with an optimized end cap that provides balance and boosts the sound on batted balls. Well-struck hits are rewarded with one of the loudest notes in USA-approved bats. The sweet spot is impressive, though it is outdone by some of its pricier competition.
The value in the Mizuno is in its longevity. It represents a compromise between high technology and cost. Its aluminum walls are variable-thickness, but not quite as high-tech as the average composite bat. The sweet spot is large, though larger ones certainly exist.
For the cost of entry, though, the B20 Hot Metal is hard to beat or fault. At first blush it is a no-frills bat with no standout features, but there’s more to the story. The USA rules so handcuff manufacturers that there is little cause for Mizuno to put much more tech into a bat.
The B20 Hot Metal can take on all comers. Its 2 5/8 inch barrel can hit it as far as any composite bat so long as the ball finds its comparatively small sweet spot. And there is no need for break-in work and no worries of breakage.
What we like (and don’t like) about the 2020 B20 Hot Metal:
- Longevity practically guaranteed.
- As hot as any USA bat available.
- Produces a loud, satisfying sound.
- Well-balanced for faster, more stable swings.
- Literally blends in with the others, nothing stands out.
- Lacks the aggressive vibration damping of some others.
Most Innovative: 2020 Axe Avenge One
Here’s one you won’t see in many Little League bat reviews from years past, but that fact will likely soon change. The Axe brand represents truly innovative thinking in a game that tends to buck such new-fangled ideas.
This bat is all about leverage, which helps any player maximize swing speed. That added speed equates to added power, especially with the performance restrictions now in place. And the key lies in that unique axe-handle grip.
The unusual angle of the grip enables the player to transfer more energy into the swing. The all-composite construction ensures that as much of that energy gets transferred to the ball as possible. The lightness of the composite material equates to a larger effective sweet spot, and the 2 5/8 inch barrel increases the chance of contact.
Even poorly struck balls produce decent results, and the carbon composite absorbs most of the vibrations when players do miss the sweet spot. That’s hard to do with this stick, though.
The Axe bat is all the rage in MLB, and it is becoming more of force in youth ball as well. This is what the future looks like.
What we like (and don’t like) about the 2020 Axe Avenge One:
- Axe-handle knob enables players to impart more force into the swing.
- All-composite design makes for large sweet spots.
- Composite also makes for a lighter bat and faster resulting bat speed.
- Has as much bounce as the rules allow.
- A conversation starter that players line up to try.
- As expensive as you’d expect an all-composite to be.
- Requires a gradual break-in process before it’s game ready.
- Composite simply is not as crack-resistant as aluminum.
The new USA bat rules have certainly leveled the playing field, while also forcing bat companies to innovate in some unexpected ways. The Easton ADV 360 (drop-11) gets our top spot for pushing the envelope, even though the peak of performance is predetermined.
Trampoline effect is a thing of the past in rec ball, so the competition now exists only in bat speed and sweet-spot size. Considering that, there really isn’t much between all the bats on this list.