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By Bat Digest | Last Updated November 17, 2022
The 2017 CF Zen is a legend. The 2 3/4 blue one was banned from USSSA play and the 2 5/8 green drop 5 was and is an absolute ball killer. At the time of this updated writing you can still find it on Amazon in exchange for your kidney. The bat is the perfect blend of balance and performance. Long sweet spot in every size and dominates the USSSA space. The only downfall is that it has some durability issues—but that is directly correlated to how hot the bat is from day 1.
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.
There isn’t a bat company in existence that hasn’t tried to mimic the DeMarini CF series of bats in some fashion or another. This makes a list of comparable bats, at least as other manufacturers would see it, long. There are a few we think worth highlighting, if you are, in fact, in the top shelf bat market in terms of performance and price. For the 2017 class we like the Easton MAKO, Rawlings Quatro and Slugger 917 Prime. All our two piece composites with a generally light swing. They are very comparable to the CF Zen in construction and price.
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.
The overall rating uses seven different weighted metrics to determine our overall score. Half of total rating comes from the player and our exit speed tests (Player Rating: 25%, Performance: 25%).The other categories are Relevance (20%), Demand (10%), Durability (10%), Resell Score (5%), and Tech Specs (5%).
*: When a bat is denoted by a star (*) it is a preliminary rating. Expect it to be updated as we learn more about the bat and gather more data.
(PlaRa) Player Rating: We measure player rating from user reviews. Those users include our own hitters that we test at the lab as well as reviews we find online.
(ExVe) Performance: Performance measures the exit speeds and distances we capture in our hitting lab with HitTrax using these bats.
(Relv) Relevance: We measure the number of sizes and the MOI of the bat. Bats with a wider range of options get a better score.
(Dmnd) Demand: Demand is measured by consumer sentiment and the buzz around the bat.
(Drb) Durability: A bat’s durability is measured by user reviews as well as feedback from manufacturers.
(ReSl) Resell Score: Based on the price the bats go for used. Higher prices mean greater user demand which means, generally, a better bat. A resell value closer to its original price means a higher score.
(Tech) Tech Specs: We rate the bat on its technological advancements from previous years and compared to the industry at large. This is our chance to reward companies who are trying to innovate.
MOI or Mass Moment of Inertia is a measurement of bat swing weight. This quantifies how difficult it is to swing a bat. The industry often refers to this as things like End Load or Balanced but those words have been overused to the point of meaninglessness. We measure the actual swing weights of each bat we test using the industry-standard pendulum period, balance point, and scale weight. You can read more about that here.
The price is the original MSRP price of the bat.
The types of bats are single-piece alloy (SPA), two-piece composite (TPC), single-piece composite (SPC), hybrid (Hyb.), and wood (Wood). Hybrid bats are made of composite handles and alloy barrles.
The estimated date the bat began distribution.