Hunter Barco was the Pirates’ second-round pick in the 2022 draft. The Pirates knew it wouldn’t be until late into the 2023 season that he would make his pro debut. When the Bucs took him, he had just undergone Tommy John surgery in May. He’s technically no longer injured, however, he is on a rehab assignment at the Pirates’ Florida Complex League.
Barco was picked out of the University of Florida. During his final season, Barco was only limited to 50.1 innings but was highly effective. The lefty pitched to the tune of a 2.50 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and a K:BB ratio clocking in at 6.27. Barco induced a lot of strikeouts while limiting walks. He struck out over a third of opponents with a 34.3% rate but also limited them to a free pass just 5.5% of the time. The only knock on Barco’s game was his HR/9 of 1.07, which was still slightly above the SEC average at the time of 1.15.
Barco wasn’t an insanely hard thrower in college. He typically sits around 90-93 MPH while topping out at 95. Barco’s best pitch is his slider, which has cross-fire action. He also throws a changeup, which projects as a second above-average or better pitch. Barco has above-average command and can hit his spots frequently, but his low arm-slot delivery adds some deception to his stuff.
Barco made his return to baseball on Thursday and excelled in his pro debut. He only pitched two innings and faced seven batters, but he struck out four, didn’t allow a hit, and walked just one. The Pirates’ FCL facility doesn’t have Statcast, so there isn’t any publicly available accurate data about his stuff.
Either way, Barco’s return was promising, to say the least. He’s already 22, so it’s likely the Pirates will try to get him back into games at Low-A or High-A soon. It’s possible he joins his fellow 2022 draftee Thomas Harrington with the Greensboro Grasshoppers once the Pirates feel he’s fully healed.
It’s possible that he makes his debut sometime in 2024 if he stays healthy and pitches well. 2024 will mark his age-23 season, which even with missing most of a year because of Tommy John surgery, is still a reasonable age to debut at.