This is one in a series of stories breaking down PBN’s Top 30 Pittsburgh Pirates prospects.
Despite coming off of Tommy John surgery in May of that year, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected left-handed pitcher Hunter Barco in the second round of the 2022 MLB Draft.
Drafted 44th overall out of the University of Florida, the Pirates felt the reward far outweighed the risk at the time of the selection.
The body of work with the Gators was impressive. For his collegiate career, the 6-foot-4 left-hander went 17-5 with a 3.14 ERA, 189 strikeouts and only 43 walks in 152.2 innings. Barco was in the midst of a breakout season as a junior prior to his surgery. In nine starts that year, Barco had a 2.50 ERA and registered 12.9 strikeouts per nine across nine starts.
Barco’s injury pushed his debut back until this past season, and he made his first professional appearance in the Florida Complex League. In three appearances/two starts in the FCL, Barco allowed a lone run on four hits in 7.2 innings while striking out nine and walking a pair.
The Pirates quickly promoted Barco, who turns 22 next month, to Single-A Bradenton. There, Barco totaled 10.2 innings across six starts. Though he allowed six runs, Barco struck out a staggering 19 batters against four walks.
Barco has a three-pitch mix that includes a fastball, slider and and changeup. His fastball sits in the low-90s and is deceptive thanks to his cross-body delivery and tall frame. The changeup is already an above-average offering. His slider is a plus-pitch that has helped to lead to the strikeout totals he’s had.
Throughout his college career and his brief time in the Pirates’ organization, control has not been an issue. Barco has a history of filling up the strike zone and limiting free passes.
Now fully healthy, Barco has a legitimate opportunity to soar up prospect rankings as he furthers his professional career. With his pitch mix and ability to command the zone, he has the tools necessary to do so.