I never really considered Rawlings as a premium manufacturer of bats but recently their products have been quite competitive in the market. As a result, they appear to be gaining popularity with coaches and players who are eager to find the next great bat. You’re starting to see them more and more on ball diamonds, and I predict that in 2017 you’ll see even more of them, especially the Rawlings 5150, which seems poised to take Rawlings into the upper tier of bat manufacturers.
What To Look For In A Bat
There are a couple of things to watch out for when buying a bat. First of all, you should take your time to determine your budget, and this should be largely based on how serious of a ball player you are. When I first started playing, I did not know the difference between many types of bats and thus ended up buying a bat that was not that good. For my purposes, however, it was sufficient as my level of play did not dictate a premium bat. As my skills improved, my budget for a bat also increased as I was now looking for something to take my game to the next level.
Secondly, you should find a bat that meets your swing in terms of weighting. I was using a heavier bat for the longest time and as a result I was losing swing speed. When I eventually switched down to a lower weighted bat, my swing speed was faster and I found that I was hitting balls further. It just shows you that bat speed and how quickly you can swing the bat matters more than how heavy the bat is. As a general rule, you should look to swing as heavy a bat as possible without giving up any bat speed.
Lastly, you’ll need to decide on the barrel construction. Some people prefer composite barrels, while others favor aluminum alloy construction. Composite tends to offer a bit more pop and power but is susceptible to cracks. Aluminum has a bit more durability and resiliency, but won’t hit the ball as far in most cases. There’s also the option to go with a hybrid of both, attempting to get the best of both worlds in a bat with adequate pop but still good durability.
With these three things in mind (budget, weighting, materials), let’s dig a bit deeper into the one bat that I feel meets those requirements.
Taking A Look At The Rawlings 5150
The Rawlings 5150 has been featured at the Little League World series championship game in 3 out of the past 5 years, a testament to the growing interest in what is a fantastic bat being used at the highest levels of competition. Exposure at such a high level is sure to trickle down to lower levels of play as well, only increasing the 5150’s popularity. I would not be surprised to see it much more prevalent on ballfields this summer.
The Rawlings 5150 uses aerospace graded 5150 alloy which is known for being very responsive, and this in turn seems to produce a strong ‘trampoline effect’ when you make contact with the ball. It did appear during batting practice sessions that the ball was jumping off the barrel more than with other bats. The barrel also seemed to flex more than other bats that were used, which made it seem as if the ball was hit a lot harder when good contact was made.
Many Rawlings users are converts from DeMarini and Easton, as both those manufacturers seemed to have the lion’s share of the bat market as recently as several years ago. The Rawlings 5150 swings quite similar to bats from both Easton and DeMarini, which makes it an easier transition in terms of weighting, balance, and overall construction. The one-piece alloy construction will take a little bit of time to get used to for those who are more familiar with two-piece construction, but other than that it should be a smooth crossover for any new users.
The main benefits of the 5150 really do aim to differentiate it from competition. The first major feature of the Rawlings 5150 is Precision Optimized Performance (POP) construction in the barrel that aims to maximize the sweetspot. The end result is one of the larger sweetspots in the market today, though I will say that Combat seems to have a larger sweetspot than the 5150. Still, the barrel’s sweetspot is nothing to sneeze at, as hits that would have been mishits or stung the hands on other bats still managed to find the sweetspot on the 5150. The aerospace grade alloy construction surely has something to do with this, as the barrel seems super responsive.
I also found the 5150 swung extremely balanced and it reminded me of some of the older Easton (pre-2006) bats within the Synergy line (Extended, Flex). Any bat company will tell you that it is extremely difficult to get the right balance in weighting between the handle and the barrel, but the engineers at Rawlings seem to have found a very nice fit with the 5150. It feels as if you have just a bit of weight in the barrel to help pull your hands through the zone when you swing, but still you feel very much in control as it does feel incredibly balanced and even.
You’ll also notice that your swing speed does not slow down as it swings pretty true to the sticker weight. All of this combines to give a nice, balanced, easy swing through the zone. This is important especially for young players as it will teach proper swing mechanics and rotation, and teach the hitter to let the bat head lead the hands through the zone on a swing. Bats that are not weighted correctly could even prove to be detrimental to the long term habits that are developed in young sluggers.
Another main selling point of the 5150 is the overall performance of the bat whether in hot or cold temperatures. We took it out early in the spring and it was crushing balls right out of the wrapper. This is great if you’re looking for a bat that doesn’t require a long break-in time, and want something that you can use immediately this year. Often we purchase a bat early in the season and by the time it is broken in, summer is already winding down and it is time to put the gear away. The 5150 performed quite well for us from day one. Whether this holds up in the long run remains to be seen, but it is comforting that there is a one-year warranty in case anything happens.
- Aerospace graded 5150 alloy constructed barrel for maximum performance, resulting in a fairly large sweetspot that is responsive.
- Great power and distance on hits with the POP technology used in barrel.
- Balanced swing weight is great for both power hitters and singles / doubles players.
- Hot right out of the wrapper, no break-in time required.
- Grip feels great and is comfortable to hold and swing.
- Sweetspot is large but still smaller than the Combat Maxum, in my opinion.
One of the biggest surprises of the year for me, the 5150 has stepped up to the plate to challenge as one of the top bats of 2017. Love the ping sound that is music to my ears when solid contact is made, and it’s a sound that you’ll be sure to hear across ballparks this summer.
Others Worth Consideration
Here’s a few others that are worth comparing against the Rawlings 5150:
One of the most popular DeMarini bats, the Voodoo is a fairly balanced aluminum alloy barrel baseball bat which has great weight distribution. The X14 barrel technology is connected to the state-of-the-art D-Fusion 2.0 handle which transfers energy from handle to barrel.
- D-Fusion handle has a terrific trampoline effect - didn’t hurt too much on mishits either.
- X14 alloy barrel is a great alternative to the 5150’s composite construction if you’re looking for an aluminum bat.
- RCK knob is extremely comfortable, especially if you like to use the drop pinky bat grip as I do.
- More balanced than endloaded, if that is your preference.
- Pop and distance were shorter than the 5150.
A nice bat for those looking for an aluminum offering, but I found it lacking a bit in the power department when compared side-by-side against the 5150. Still, a very nice stick for the price.
Marucci is a smaller name that you may not recognize, but if you spend enough time around the diamonds you’ll find that those in the know all speak very highly of this bat company. The Cat 7 (and its successors, the Cat 5 and Cat 6) has found a growing following in the baseball community and for good reason; this is truly a great baseball bat.
- Large sweetspot, possibly just as large as the 5150.
- Barrel is precision balanced so it swung quite easily.
- One-piece alloy construction using AZ4X technology.
- Barrel technology is ring free which results in a minimal amount of ‘dead’ spots on the bat.
- AV2 knob is comfortable and good on the hands with minimal stinging.
- Again, pop and distance were no match for the 5150.
Very large sweetspot, a comfortable bat and probably the easiest of the three bats to swing. A terrific singles and doubles bat, but I did find that the ball leaving the barrel of the bat did not seem to be as fast as when I used the 5150. I can see small-ball hitters enjoying the Cat 7 as you have great control on swings and can spray hits to all fields. Not too much power though to lift it over the fence.
The Rawlings 5150 is an incredibly versatile bat that is great for power hitters, but still suitable for spray hitters. For singles and doubles the Cat 7 from Marucci may be a better option, but the 5150 still performs quite well in this department and it truly is a terrific option in this price range. I was quite pleased with the performance of all three bats during my BP session, but hands down the winner was the 5150, and I can’t wait to take it out onto the diamond this year.