After not being selected in the 2020 MLB Draft, Cal State Fullerton baseball pitcher Tanner Bibee will return for his senior season after a solid 2020 campaign before competition was suspended.
“I wanted to come back and kind of finish out what I started,” Bibee said.
This was not the first time Bibee had flirted with the idea of playing professional baseball, as he said he had some interest when he graduated from Mission Viejo High School before coming to CSUF. With three years of college baseball now under his belt, the chance to play professionally was far greater when he left high school, as he was in contact with some MLB teams before the draft.
However, this year’s draft was unlike any other. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MLB has yet to begin the 2020 season and there is no target date set. For the minor leagues, where players typically start once they are drafted, this season has been worse.
Minor league players throughout the country have been cut from their teams or had their pay reduced as teams try to combat the lost revenue created by the pandemic, leading to the likely assumption that all of minor league baseball will be canceled in 2020.
As a result, MLB decided to shorten this year’s draft from 40 rounds to a mere five. After the draft concluded on Thursday, undrafted players, like Bibee, could sign with teams, but for no more than $20,000 a year.
With the possibility of raising his draft stock, earning more money after college and most importantly, earning his degree, Bibee decided to return to play his final year of eligibility.
Despite only playing 16 games of the season, 2020 was a disappointing one for the Titans as they finished the year at 4-12 and lost their last six games. Still, Bibee emerged as one of the team’s best players and became the ace of the starting rotation.
While Bibee was 1-3 in his four starts on the year, the offense produced only two runs in those three losses. Bibee led the team in strikeouts with 33 and 29.2 inning pitched, including nine in each of his first three starts, was second on the team in ERA, 2.73, and was the only pitcher to toss a complete game in a 3-1 loss to San Francisco on Feb. 28. Bibee’s performance also earned him recognition from D1 Baseball as they ranked him the No. 7 junior pitcher in the country.
After becoming the go-to starter for the team, Bibee said he wants to improve and perfect every aspect of his game for the upcoming season, primarily increasing his velocity. Now, working out from home for the third straight month, Bibee said he’s gotten his routine down for staying in shape.
“I’ve been working out like five times a week. Been running a little bit, then try to eat as healthy as I can just try, just kind of keep the train going,” Bibee said.
Bibee said his teammates and coaches were all excited to hear that he will be returning, as he is able to finish his college career on his own terms. While 2020 was not the year the Titans envisioned, Bibee said that he views this past season as preparation for the next year. With the team’s expectations now higher than before, he said he believes that his team will be ready to return to Omaha for the College World Series for the first time since 2017.
“I feel like it was kind of like a spring training for the 2021 season and everyone kind of knows what to expect now. So, I feel like everyone kinda is holding the ball a little higher,” Bibee said. “Now, everyone is going to definitely feel and kind of want it more.”