Hunter Barco was selected in the second round of the 2022 draft by the Bucs. The Pirates knew that his development wouldn’t be typical because the University of Florida left-hander had undergone Tommy John surgery that year. Barco missed all of the first half of 2023, still recovering from surgery, but came back strong in the second half of the year.
Barco pitched 18.1 of his innings after the All-Star break. It was a small sample size, but he pitched extremely well, allowing just seven earned runs, walking six, and striking out 28 batters. Barco didn’t allow a home run, posting a ground ball rate well over 50% at 53.5% and a fly ball rate of just 27.9%.
The southpaw mainly utilized a sinker at Bradenton. Barco was never a hard thrower in college and sat around 90 MPH as a pro. His slider and changeup also looked like solid pitches in 2023. He throws with a low arm slot, which helps add some deception to his motion. He has consistently shown good control as well.
I don’t see Barco repeating any time at Bradenton next year. He’s 23 and didn’t pitch poorly last year, small sample size withstanding. But even though he’s 23, is he ready for Double-A competition? What I think will happen is that he’ll start the year at High-A Greensboro but will get a quick promotion to Altoona, similar to how Thomas Harrington opened the year at Bradenton but was up to Greensboro by June.