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By Bat Digest
Updated November 17, 2022
Many players who also used the 2016 CF8, felt the Zen was stronger at contact and had more of a shallow ping sound. They liked the balance and couldn't differentiate its swing weight with a similarly sized CF8. The grip, they often mentioned, felt more slim---although we think they were deceived by their aftermarket 1.8mm Lizard Skin. A few mentioned they would have liked a tapered grip on the smaller bats like it is on the BBCOR. All in all, results came highly recommended and coveted. We are sure the 2017 CF Zen will have at least as much success at the plate than the previous years' CF predecessors.
The buttery power of the CF series of bats will ring honest and true. The Zen is lightly balanced with outstanding pop at any pitch speed when hit correctly.
Note: Since this review was first published two of the CF Zens have been deemed illegal for play in the USSSA world. They include the 2 5/8 Drop 8 and the 2 3/4 Drop 10. You can read more about those CF Zen Illegal details, as well as options, here.
The most promising construction upgrade from the 2016 CF8 to the 2017 CF Zen is the new and stronger carbon fiber. Carbon fiber (i.e. plastic) can be easily manipulated. A stronger construction isn't an unreasonable claim to make and we have no reason to think DeMarini is embellishing the claim (which is, specifically, 22% stronger by their calculations). The stronger CF allows for less material (read: weight) to be used up in barrel and handle construction. That weight freedom, if you will, allows for more focus on the knob and end cap to deliver optimal balance and component structural improvements.
In fact, it is this precise upgrade (which DeMarini is calling a new Paraflex composite) from the CF8 to the 2017 CF series of bats that allows for the creation of the CF Insane (the sweet spirited, heavier sister of the CF Zen).
The CF Zen uses the Paraflex composite, creating its ultra light swing weight by more optimally weighting the end cap and knob. Its ultimate swing weight measurements (by our calculations) have not changed from the 2016 CF8 or 2015 CF7.
The CF Zen is a two piece carbon fiber composite bat. Those familiar with previous years' CF8 and CF7 will understand this well enough. Two piece composite bats have defined the performance space across the board over the last several years and there is no doubt DeMarini's CF line of bats have often led that charge.
Two piece carbon fiber (i.e. plastic) bats are formed by creating both a barrel and handle of a bat separately. Then the two pieces are mended together. The trick manufacturers struggle with is finding the optimal stiffness within that mend. On one hand you need a stiff transition to transfer all the power to the ball, but on the other hand, an ultra stiff transition transfers too much sting on mishits to the hand---removing that 'oh-so-buttery' feel most hitters love (and often hate) about two piece composite bats.