By Aaron Barrows (Aaron was a 4-year starting outfielder at Eastern Kentucky with a .313 lifetime BA, and a former product developer for Louisville Slugger. Aaron knows bats. These are his *opinions*. Aaron’s job is not to sell bats. His job is to help you buy the right bat. Reach him at [email protected] or @thebatscout)
We had the chance to take some hacks with the new 2017 Marucci CAT7 (one piece aluminum) and CAT7 Connect (two piece hybrid). Here’s a breakdown of the different aspects of each bat:
Bats Tested: Marucci CAT7 and CAT7 CONNECT 33” BBCOR
Cosmetics / Graphics
When Marucci originally released the first CAT5, it was obvious that detailed graphics were not a huge concern of the company. From the CAT5 squared on, they have continued that trend by sticking with essentially the same look of a white base, grey & red lettering and grey hurricane-esque circular design surrounding the model name sporting the high gloss finish. Marucci actually just released an article showing the progression of their CAT aluminum bats over the past few years, which you can find here: Evolution of the Marucci CAT Aluminum Line
The CAT7 and CAT7 Connect are no different. There could be multiple explanations for this choice: They could be saving money for a better margin (business decision), the idea of strictly focusing on performance or using it as a brand strategy among others. Either way you know what you’re getting upfront. They did however, go with an upgraded rubber knob medallion vs the traditional plastic bubble type to show the length of the bat, which is a nice detail (I see you working product line manager). They also keep things pretty simple with the rollover end cap presumably made of TPU like many other bats.
CAT7: The CAT7 introduces the AV2 (Anti Vibration Knob), improving upon its predecessor of the original AV knob. Coming from Marucci, the AV2 knob “features a finely tuned and upgraded harmonic dampening system for better feel and less negative vibrational feedback in hitters’ hands.” The first thing I noticed about the AV2 is its size. It is probably the biggest knob I’ve ever seen on a non-wood bat. At first glance, I was skeptical about how it would feel in my hands, but after I started swinging, it was a non-issue during the test. It reminded me of a wood bat knob, which would make sense if it was “professionally-inspired”. If you’re a guy that wraps your pinky and or ring finger around the knob, you should feel this bat in your hands before making a decision.
nd composite handle do a good job of dampening most of the vibration, so there isn’t a need for the beefed up AV2.
CAT7 & CAT7 Connect: I’m just going to start with this, these things are LOUD! The bats were tested at an indoor facility, which adds a little emphasis with echo, but there will be no mistaking these out on the field. There were multiple people in the cages that stopped what they were doing to look over at what I was swinging. In my time in the cage, the two bats were fairly close in sound, but I think that the Connect was a little higher pitched overall. It reminded me of the Rawlings Velo, but I’d have to hit them head to head for a direct comparison. If you’re in love with the ping, you won’t be disappointed.
Feel / Swing Weight
CAT7: The CAT7 is a fairly balanced bat. It won’t have the lowest MOI in the one piece aluminum class, but I don’t think it will be the heaviest either. It should fall right in the middle to reach a pretty broad group of players. It was tested in a variety of scenarios, which included balls off the middle barrel, inner barrel/handle and off the last 3 inches of the bat. There wasn’t a ball hit that ever sent a stinger through my hands, which was nice. With it being a 1 piece alloy, you can definitely feel more vibration / feedback than a 2 piece, but a combination of the AV2 knob and padded grip seemed to prevent any shooting pain on jam jobs. A side note on the grip: it seemed pretty thick to me, especially on top of a padded handle taper. It worked out fine with batting gloves, but I did notice it getting a little slick if it interacted with sweat / water. The grip can easily be changed out if it doesn’t work for you.
CAT7 Connect: The Connect definitely has some serious barrel weight to it and a higher MOI (Moment of Inertia or swing weight) than the CAT7. As with most multi-piece bats, there wasn’t an issue with vibration. The SDX (Shock Dissipation Connection) felt pretty stiff on impact and there were never any signs of movement or flex. I reached out to Marucci to find out what type of material the inner connection was made of, but they chose to keep it under wraps, which is understandable. With it being so stiff, my guess is that it’s a high durometer rubber. While hitting, once you got the barrel going, it did most of the work through the zone. I think that this bat will reach a much smaller audience than the CAT7 because it is so end loaded. If you’re a strong hitter and can swing the Connect without sacrificing bat speed / path, I’d take a look at it (this is something you could test with a Zepp Swing Sensor). The Connect is going to have a tough time taking away market share from the Demarini Voodoo and Easton Z-core Hybrid, but I’m sure it will find its niche among hitters.
CAT7 & CAT7 Connect: Without hitting these head to head against a CAT6 or scientifically measuring the barrel exit speed with a performance cannon, it’s hard to say whether Marucci’s claim of the sweet spot being 2x larger than the CAT6 is accurate. With their AZ4X technological advances using a 7 area variable wall thickness design, I’m sure they were able to make the sweet spot larger. Their use of the variable wall thickness along the barrel is also Marucci’s way of remaining BBCOR compliant vs competitor offerings that use inserts or rings. In my opinion, both of these bats performed well in testing and actually better than I thought they would. With the extra MOI, the Connect will add some easy distance for the players that can handle it.
I was pleasantly surprised how well both of these bats tested out. The ball seemed to shoot off of both AZ4X barrels even when impact moved off of the sweet spot (You can see some evidence of this during the Area Code Games homerun derby). I think that they may have a hard time competing with some of the options from Louisville Slugger, Demarini, Rawlings and Easton, but Marucci should be able leverage their wood bat success in the non-wood space to a certain extent along with prior CAT models. If you’re in the market for a new one piece aluminum or two-piece hybrid, don’t pass up giving these a chance. If you have the opportunity, take them out for a round of bp, it will be worth it. With a few years under their belt, I like the direction that Marucci is heading and am excited to see what they release in the future, maybe a multi-piece composite?