After Tommy John surgery ended Hunter Barco's final college season early in 2022, the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect returned to the mound in 2023
In the 2022 draft Ben Cherington and the Pittsburgh Pirates emphasized college pitching. One of these pitchers was Hunter Barco. The lefty signed for $1.7 million after being selected 44th overall out of the University for Florida.
Unfortunately for Barco, due to undergoing Tommy John surgery in May of 2022 his final college season was cut short. This also prevented Barco from making his professional debut in 2022. Instead, that debut wold come in 2023.
Barco returned to the mound for game action on July 20th. After pitching in 3 games at the Florida Complex League, Barco was promoted to the High-A Bradenton Marauders. With the Marauders, Barco then made 6 starts.
As you would expect, Barco was eased back into things. Between the two levels, Barco pitched just 18.1 innings in his 9 appearances. Barco walked just 7.7% of batters faced, struck out a healthy 35.9% of opposing batters, limited opponents to a .236 batting average, and did not allow a home run. All of this led to Barco posting a 3.44 ERA and a 1.79 FIP in his first taste of professional action.
If not for one blow up start, Barco's numbers would have been even better. In a start on August 18th, Barco recorded just one out while allowing 3 earned runs. This accounted for 3 of the 7 earned runs he allowed last season.
Looking ahead to 2024, Barco should begin the season back at High-A Bradenton. Barco just turned 23-years-old earlier this month, and could have a chance to move up the system quickly if he is pitching well.
If Barco can replicate his success from last season, then he should at least reach High-A Greensboro before the end of 2024. Perhaps even Double-A Altoona could be a possibility.
Before requiring Tommy John surgery in May 2022, Barco appeared to be well on his way to being a first-round pick and one of the first college pitchers selected. If he can continue to bounce back from Tommy John, Barco could prove to be a real steal for the Pirates from the 2022 draft.
Even if Barco would pan out as a solid middle of the rotation arm, that would be a solid get for the Pirates as the 44th overall pick in the draft. Hopefully, Barco's first full professional season in 2024 will follow the same path as his shortened 2023 debut season and put him on the map as a Pirate prospect.