A lot has changed for Louisville Slugger since they last released a line of performance baseball bats—a 2015 line of bats we thought were on par with any top shelf selection of bats on the market (and users thought so too). The major change: the entire brand got bought by Wilson Sporting Goods. Wilson, you may know, actually owns another pretty well known bat company: DeMarini.
Many of us who pay close attention to the bat space have wondered what will become of Slugger’s composite and alloy bat line now that they are under the same umbrella as DeMarini. The 2016 Slugger versions were well in utero when the acquisition occurred so it is hard to claim the on time release of these spiffed up 2016 versions are a sign that we can expect composite and alloy bats from Slugger for the foreseeable future.
Regardless of any future speculation, we can be certain that Slugger’s 2016 versions are here to stay. Now that we are past the NCAA tournament, where these we first seen, the 916 Prime, 716 Select and 516 Omaha are now available for the public to purchase. When we get more time in the cage with these full reviews on each bat are sure to come but, for now, we give you a reader’s digest of what highlights Slugger’s 2016 class and how they have changed from last year.
2016 Louisville Slugger 916 Prime
While the 2015 915 Prime made some serious waves as a powerful hitter’s bat with an end load, Slugger 2016 916 Prime (Amazon $349 to $399, ebay) will actually be a balanced bat with an oversize barrel. Yes, sadly, the 916 Prime will leave the nearly empty niche of end-loaded two-piece composite bats to give us yet another option in the remarkably competitive multi-piece balanced bat category.
The 916 Prime will lose its weight by thinning out the composite walls in the barrel. Strength (and BBCOR/BPF standards) are kept by adding a composite ring inside the baseball bat about one inch below the sweet spot. So, not only will the bat have a greater distribution of its weight toward the hands, it will also have a larger barrel. This is great news for those looking for even more options in the two-piece composite balanced bat space but not great news for those who found the end loaded 915 Prime a composite lover’s dream.
Two other changes from the 915 are worth comment. First, the Lizard Skin grips (Amazon $11, ebay) will come on the 916 Prime. This is great news. Slugger, like Combat Bats, now come with the best grip in the business. Second, Slugger claims a new process for molding the composite fibers on the bat referred to as Fused Carbon Structure (FCS). We’ll save you the sales pitch as to how this is somehow better than last year’s process.
We are sure you can expect, like last year, a full line of 2016 916 Primes to be released in the coming weeks and months (e.g. Drop 5s, 2 3/4, etc, etc.).
2016 Louisville Slugger 716 Select
The 2016 Louisville Slugger 716 (Amazon $179 to $299, ebay) doesn’t have nearly as many updates as the 916 when compared to previous years but there are some worth mentioning. First, the Lizard Skin grip is always a plus and that is new feature. Second, the 2016 716 barrel size is considerably larger than the 2015 715.
Other than those changes (which may be significant) the bat is largely unchanged with the obvious exception to the color up. The 716 Select from Louisville Slugger is a two-piece hybrid bat with the same TRU-3 connective piece found on last years bat. With the diet Louisville Slugger put the 916 on, the 716 will serve as the heaviest swing weight bat in the 2016 class. It should be the preferred bat of folks who prefer peak performance out of the wrapper and have the guns to swing for the fences.
2016 Louisville Slugger 516 Omaha
The 2016 Louisville Slugger 516 Omaha (Amazon $99 to $199, ebay) also comes with a few changes for 2016. Two things are highly notable: The barrel size is measurably larger than the 515. Slugger claims a new alloy combination gave them the ability for the larger barrel. Further, the bat has considerably lighter swing weight than previous year’s versions. In fact, Slugger claims it is the lightest swinging Omaha per inch they’ve ever produced. When we get these in hand we can confirm and give you some data points to compare.
Additionally, the 516 also comes with a color up and a new Lizard Skin grip. It is still, like last year, a one piece alloy bat built for folks who care more about distance than stingy hands.
Slugger’s move in 2015 to three series of bats in a (1) two-piece composite, (2) hybrid and (3) one piece alloy gave them a great platform to improve upon their brand and product offering year in and year out. This platform, as expected, was tweaked in 2016 with some notable changes—at least on paper. The 2016 season is still young (and by young we mean not started yet) But as we get a chance to hit with these, and hear from other players around the country, we will have more specifics on feel, actual metrics and performance.
So far, we are flatly disappointed that the end loaded two-piece composite will no longer be available in the 9 series of 2016 bats from Slugger. But while we do think the additional barrel length in the 916 will be appreciated we are not sure the market needs yet another oversized barrel with a light swig weight. Maybe we’ll be proved wrong and the 916 will break from the pack.
We suspect the 716 Select, with its price point, will rule plates and pitcher’s nightmares in 2016. A hot out the wrapper two piece hybrid with a big barrel and high end performance is just what the market has been asking for. (Voodoo say what?)
As well, the 515 will find plenty of love with a light swinging single piece alloy from a brand name the public has come to trust.