Pittsburgh Pirates: One Breakout Prospect to Watch at Each Position

The Pirates could see these prospects breakout in 2024.
Los Angeles Dodgers v Pittsburgh Pirates
Los Angeles Dodgers v Pittsburgh Pirates / Rick Stewart/GettyImages
11 of 11

Left-Handed Pitcher - Hunter Barco

Hunter Barco was the Bucs' second-round pick in 2022 out of the University of Florida. It took a while for Barco to see pro batters. The Pirates knew this as he had Tommy John surgery in May of 2022. Barco looked good in his shortened 2022 college season, owing a 2.50 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 6.27 K:BB ratio through 50.1 innings. But Barco seemingly picked up where he left off in the second half of 2023.

The Pirates were careful with Barco's workload as he only pitched 18.1 innings, but he only allowed seven earned runs, struck out 28, and only allowed six walks. Only one of his nine outings saw him dish out multiple free passes. His ground ball rate was great as well, sitting at 53.5%. Along with a sub-30% fly ball rate, it's no surprise that none of the batted balls Barco allowed left the park.

Unlike Shim, Barco sits in the low 90s with his fastest pitch. That's his sinkerball, which also has about 2350 RPM of spin. His slider is his best pitch, one with a significant amount of arm-side run to it. His change-up also looks like an above-average offering in the mid-80s. Barco throws from a low arm slot, and his wind-up gives his stuff some deceptive qualities. He's shown he can command his stuff very well.

Barco should pitch a mostly full season in 2024. The Pirates may put him on an innings limit, given he hasn't pitched more than 50 innings in a season since 2022. But if he can show he's healthy for a whole season, he could very well be the team's biggest breakout left-handed pitching prospect in 2024. The only reason I didn't put Michael Kennedy here is because Kennedy was healthy for all of 2023 while Barco was injured for the first half.

Honorable Mention: Michael Kennedy

Next. potential draft picks. Potential Draft Picks to Watch. dark