Now, most readers here at Covering the Corner are pretty big fans of Bibee, who has skyrocketed up prospect lists in the 18 months since he was drafted.
Bibee was a fifth-round pick (156th overall) by the Guardians in the 2021 draft out of Cal State Fullerton, so he entered his professional baseball career with a relatively solid profile. Here’s what scouts have had to say about him from the time he was drafted to the present day:
Cleveland Director of Amateur Scouting, Scott Barnsby - Cleveland.com (July 2021)
Standing 6-foot-2, the 190-pound Bibee went 6-6 with a 3.61 ERA in 16 games, including 14 starts. He struck out 67 and walked 21 in 89 2/3 innings.
“He’s been a mainstay in Cal Fullerton rotation the last couple of years. He’s improved his velocity. He’s been up to 95 mph and pitches in that 91 to 92 range.”
Due to being a more control-based pitcher instead of a power pitcher with nasty stuff, Bibee was tabbed as a future back-end starter by MLB.com the day he was drafted.
MLB.com (July 2021)
“Cal State Fullerton has a well-deserved reputation for developing starting pitchers with extreme strike-throwing ability, with arms like Thomas Eshelman (0.4 BB/9 in college) and Connor Seabold (1.4 BB/9) the standard bearers, both of whom went in the top three rounds of their respective Drafts. Bibee is trying to follow in their footsteps after becoming a full-time starter as a sophomore in 2019, and while he pitched very well in four outings as the Friday night starter in 2020, he went unselected in the shortened Draft and returned as the Titans’ ace in 2021. Bibee has continued to be stingy with the bases on balls, filling the zone with a solid — albeit unspectacular — three-pitch mix. His fastball has added a tick more velocity and now sits in the 90-92 mph range while touching 94, and he’ll mix in both a two- and a four-seam fastball. He’ll show two breaking balls and has favored his curve more this year than his slider compared to 2020. He also factors in a usable changeup. All of his stuff plays up because he commands three pitches extremely well and has a good understanding of how to game plan and keep hitters guessing. Like with the Fullerton starters who preceded him, Bibee’s ceiling is somewhat limited, but he has a similar chance to be a back-end starter in the big leagues if it all clicks.”
Bibee was on no one’s radar at the time, not even making the 2022 top 48 Guardians prospects for FanGraphs entering last season.
But then something amazing happened. Over the offseason, while working with Cleveland’s sensational pitching development team, Bibee made some mechanical adjustments that unlocked an additional five mph on his fastball and all of his pitches played up. Scouts quickly changed their opinion of him from a low-ceiling starter to a front-of-the-rotation dynamo.
Scouts started to notice him in early 2022.
Away Back Gone (May 2022)
“Bibee hasn’t generated the same name recognition as the likes of Gavin Williams or Tommy Mace, but he has shown the potential to be a starter at higher levels in the system. He’s displayed excellent control and good use of his stuff, striking out 52 batters while only walking six. Bibee has also spun a 0.98 WHIP, showing that he can keep men off the basepaths.
Bibee features four pitches in his repertoire, with his primary pitch being a mid-90s four-seamer. He also features a slider, curveball, and changeup. The 23-year-old doesn’t possess top-notch stuff in terms of velocity or other metrics, but his command allows him to utilize all of his weapons effectively and generate weak contact. Since his college days, he has also tapped into more strikeouts, giving him a solid profile as a potential fourth or fifth starter in the rotation.”
Bibee absolutely dominated High-A and was promoted to Double-A Akron, where he again was sensational. By the end of the season, he had everyone’s attention, having been named the Pitcher of the Year in Cleveland’s vaunted minor league system by Sports Illustrated.
Sports Illustrated (October 2022)
“Tanner’s fastball sits mid 90’s and can touch upper 90’s but his command of the fastball may be his best attribute and he fills the zone with all four of his offerings.
He would show off his strike throwing ability leading the Guardians farm system in SO/BB ratio at 6.19 and BB/9 at just 1.83.
Bibee would finish second in the farm system in strikeouts with 167 on the season only trailing Logan Allen who would strikeout 177 on the year. He would also finish second in the system in FIP at 2.80 only behind Jack Leftwich’s leading 2.49 mark.
He would also finish the year third in ERA amongst all qualified pitchers in the organization at 2.17, WHIP at 0.96 and SO% at 32.4%.
Bibee’s put himself on the doorstep of being a possible option at some point at the major league level as soon as the 2023 season. His meteoric rise from fifth round pick to now one of the top arms in the entire farm system was one of the many highlights in a very talented and deep Guardians organization.”
MLB Pipeline finally took notice, making Bibee the team’s fifth-ranked prospect entering the 2023 season:
MLB Pipeline (2023)
“The Guardians had Bibee focus on throwing with more intent, which freed up his delivery and allowed his stuff to take off. His fastball went from sitting at 90-93 mph and peaking at 95 in college to operating at 93-97 and touching 99 with carry and run. His sweeping slider went from parking around 80 mph to the mid-80s, becoming a plus pitch, and his fading changeup made similar velocity gains while continuing to confound left-handed hitters.
Bibee also can mix in an upper-70s curveball to give hitters a different look and pounds the zone with all four of his offerings. He was able to upgrade his stuff without costing himself control or command, going from a high-floor, back-of-the-rotation option to at least No. 3 starter upside and a Top 100 Prospect in short order. He’s yet another example of the Guardians drafting a polished college pitcher and helping him raise his ceiling.”
In my opinion, the sky is the limit with Bibee. He has impeccable command of the strike zone with four different pitches, can almost effortlessly throw 99 mph and I think he has the potential to unlock another 2-3 more mph with his fastball if he continues refining his mechanics and adding strength.
We could be looking at the next big thing in Cleveland and I don’t say that lightly.