Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Three Underrated Pitchers to Watch in 2024

These Pirates pitching prospects should stand out more than they do in their pitching-rich farm system.
Sep 29, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Kyle Nicolas (62)
Sep 29, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Kyle Nicolas (62) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Hunter Barco

Hunter Barco was the second-round pick for the Pirates in the 2022 draft. You might be wondering how a second-round pick could be underrated. But based on the talent in the system, it would be easy to overlook the soft-tossing Barco. The lefty has a lot more talent than some give him credit for.

Barco missed the first half of the 2023 season, as he underwent Tommy John surgery part way through his final college season. The Pirates eased Barco back into action, as he made eight starts and one bullpen appearance but never surpassed four innings in any outing. Still, in 18.1 innings, Barco only allowed seven earned runs, struck out 28, and walked six. He didn’t allow a single ground ball due to a sub-30% fly ball rate (27.9%) and a ground ball rate over 50% (53.5%).

The lefty does not throw hard, as he was only sitting around 90-92 MPH in his time with Bradenton on his sinker. However, his sinker does have above-average spin, and the velocity plays up because of Barco’s long release point. His slider is the best pitch of his arsenal, with movement that goes from one side of the plate to the other. Barco’s change-up has the potential to be an average offering with some arm-side run.

On top of decent stuff, Barco has good command. Most, when they see a soft-tossing lefty like Barco, automatically assume he’s a high-floor pitcher with a low ceiling. While he does fit that mold, I definitely think he can play above it. There’s a lot to like about his game. He has a low-arm slot with decent extension, giving him good velocity deception.