Axe Bat Review: Element Drop 8 USAbat vs Prior USSSA Youth Axe Offerings

Last year I reviewed the Axe bat MB50, the best single-piece Aluminum USSSA BPF 1.15 bat my son had ever used. It was not just a good Axe bat. It was as good as or better than any single-piece aluminum bat I have ever seen used on a youth baseball field.

My son would still be using it if he could, but due to the new bat standard which went into effect January 2018, USSSA BPF 1.15 bats are no longer legal for use in recreation leagues. The new USAbat standard attempts to bring bat barrel performance in line with wood barrels. Bat makers selling into the recreation league youth baseball market therefore introduced many new bats to conform with the new USAbat standard.

Even without the new bat standard, it was time for my son to move from a drop 10 to a drop 8 bat. He’s 13 now, which means it’s a good idea to get used to swinging heavier bats before BBCOR is required in high school . . . or sooner (see 13u Player Bat Needs).

So how well did Baden’s first USAbat Axe bat offerings perform in comparison to last year’s BPF 1.15 models? I can’t speak for all of them, but I can speak to the 2018 drop 10 Element 2 5/8″ bat which my son began using just before he turned 13. Baden Sports was kind of enough to provide me a sample for review.

30″ and 31″ models of the 2018 USAbat Axe Bat Element

To buy the Element or other 2018 USAbat models of Axe:

Axe Bat USAbat lineup

For a 10% discount off the Element or any other Axe bat at the manufacturer’s site, FilterJoe readers may use code JGOL10 when checking out.

So how well did my son do with the Element Drop 8 USAbat?

As expected, this USAbat model performed worse for him than last year’s USSSA bat.

But how much worse?

Read on to find out what my son and I thought of this bat and the impact of the USAbat standard on the Axe bat line.

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The Convoluted Bat Needs of 13u Baseball Players

Getting the right bats for a 13u player is far more complicated than any other age. Not only do a variety of bat standards apply depending on context, but BBCOR bats are looming in the near future for players who hope to continue playing in high school. As if all this weren’t enough complication, a new bat standard, USAbat, was introduced. Even this level of complication isn’t enough: the date of the age cutoff has shifted for most recreation leagues across the country.

Dealing with bats for a 13u player is a confusing mess. I’m here to help sort out the mess so families with 13u players don’t end up with 5 (and soon 6!) bats like we did:

This article defines a 13u player, states who must use BBCOR bats, discusses the logical progression to BBCOR, and goes into all the permutations of which bat is needed for which context.

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Last Spot in the Batting Order

The last spot in the batting order matters.

On many rec league teams, the last spot in the batting order is occupied by the player on the team with the lowest batting average, lowest on base percentage, and the weakest base running skills, as if the last spot did not matter.

In my opinion, this is a mistake. In this post I explain why.

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Does Player Size Matter in Youth Baseball?

The 12u base runner is bigger than the 1st base coach, and about a foot taller than the first baseman (who was slightly taller than my 12u son at the time)


 But how?

Try doing a few google searches for articles about small or big players in youth baseball. Did you find anything? Me neither. Outside of a few opinions shared on forums devoted to youth baseball, you’ll find nothing. That’s amazing, considering how big of an impact size has at the youth level.

In youth baseball, the bigger you are, the harder you throw and hit the ball, on average. Therefore, bigger kids usually get more playing time, bigger roles on the team, and more opportunities. Meanwhile, smaller kids are usually given less interesting roles and more bench time.

Some of the bigger kids clearly perform better at the young ages, especially with hitting. Will they continue to outperform all the way through the end of high school? Apart from highly gifted athletes, do smaller players even stand a chance? How can parents better support their child if they understand how their kid fits in, size-wise?

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USAbat Recommendations and Observations from Early Adopters

The first bats in conformance with the new USAbat standards went up for sale on September 1, 2017. Since then this site has maintained a database of all USAbat models currently available or expected to be available soon. The list has not grown by much since September. Many of the lighter models won’t be released until 2018, as some bat makers struggle to get these models to meet the new standard.

So how are the early USAbat models actually doing in the hands of young baseball players?

Courtesy CrimsonGuy from

My son has only personally tested one bat model, but reports are coming in from other parents testing various models, including one parent who spent over $3000 of his own money to test many of the new bats. In this post I share some of these early takes, including some personal observations I have from visiting my local Big 5 and weighing a few bats. Quite a bit of the information for this article comes from a USAbat thread at Baseball Fever, where coaches and other avid youth baseball parents honestly share information.

tldr version:  Most of the expensive composite USAbat models disappoint, while a few of the more affordable single-piece aluminum bats stand out as good values.

Read on for details, including recommendations for a couple specific models that seem like early standouts.

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Thanksgiving is a Time to be Grateful

What are you grateful for?

Each person in our family of three takes turns saying a few things he or she is grateful for as part of a regular dinner ritual. Quite often, one of us says something related to baseball such as gratitude for a particular baseball coach, an inspiring MLB story, being part of a fun team, or support for my son’s biggest passion in life. Of course, we also express gratitude related to many other areas of life.

Scientists have studied gratitude and the impact it can have on peoples’ lives. I know because my wife researched gratitude quite a bit before publishing her book My Amazing Day, a board book which helps toddlers and their families develop habits of gratitude. The toddler featured in My Amazing Day revels in everyday wonders, as any 2-year-old might do. It’s a great toddler gift, as the gift of gratitude is one that keeps on giving.

I’d like to share what I’m thankful for as it relates to this site. I’ll start with my readers, including some traffic stats:

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Training to Sprint Faster

Even the most casual fan of baseball knows that baseball players have to sprint. In addition to sprinting to first base or beyond after hitting a ball into play, outfielders run after fly balls, infielders accelerate quickly to get to a ball, and base runners steal.

But that’s not all.

Young athletes sprinting
courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Ballplayers who improve their sprinting also develop muscles used in hitting and pitching. Improving sprinting also improves explosiveness, by recruiting the right types of muscle fibers (type II) and generating energy more efficiently with the body’s fastest system for replenishing ATP, Creatine Phosphate.

It turns out science has a lot to say about how to train for sprinting, and I learned some of that science recently by completing a Coursera course, The Science of Training Young Athletes.

My son has been trying to improve his sprinting speed in the off season. After taking this course, I suggested he change his routine. He did.

The improvement was swift and dramatic.

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Review of Progressive Plyometrics for Kids: The Ultimate Off-Season Workout?

My 7th grade son has been working out for the past half year. It started with calisthenics towards the end of his baseball season. After the baseball season ended in early September, he also began a plyometrics program based on the book Progressive Plyometrics for Kids, as a way to step up his efforts to become fit in the baseball off season.

Progressive Plyometrics for Kids

Though I already briefly mentioned plyometrics as part of my Strength and Conditioning guide, I’m ready to fully review the program now that he’s done as much of it as he’s going to do.

To summarize: On the one hand, the book is very well done. When followed with good faith effort the program produces impressive, measurable results. On the other hand my son was unable to stay motivated enough to complete all 6 weeks of the program.

In detail:

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Astros Win 2017 World Series: Springer Dingers and the Axe Bat

None of the teams I normally root for were in the World Series this year. Yet, it was one of the more interesting World Series I’ve watched. We saw some terrific fielding. There were a few steals and bunts to add a little spice to the games. We got to watch Kershaw and Verlander put on good pitching shows. Yes, I know, the Astros did manage to get to Kershaw in the 4th inning of the 5th game . . .

But what will probably be remembered most about this World Series were the record 25 home runs, 15 hit by the Astros, and 10 hit by the Dodgers. The MVP was awarded to George Springer on account of his 5 Springer Dingers.

World Series MVP George Springer, courtesy Wikipedia

Curiously, I never heard any of the World Series broadcasters discuss Springer’s bat.

It’s an Axe bat.

The fact that his bat was never discussed suggests to me that Axe bats are no longer curiosities used by some college teams and a few well known major league players (Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, etc.). Axe bats, while not quite mainstream, are common enough to no longer merit special mention.

And yet, I’m still not seeing too many Axe bats used in youth baseball. I think that’s going to change over the next few years, and not just because of Springer’s Dingers. Here’s why:

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USAbat Profile: Easton S450 (drop 12)

New youth baseball bats came to market in September 2017, supporting the new USAbat standard. This site maintains a comprehensive list of USAbats that are on the market (or will be soon). Over the next few months, I’m going profile a few bats that I happen to think are particularly noteworthy (see USAbat Recommendations and Observations from Early Adopters).

Easton S450 YSB18S450 (drop 12)

This is the first such profile, the Easton S450.

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