Three Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospects on the rise

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a some pitching prospects who are gaining momentum to start the year.
West Virginia pitcher Carlson Reed (17) throws a pitch against the Texas Longhorns at UFCU
West Virginia pitcher Carlson Reed (17) throws a pitch against the Texas Longhorns at UFCU / Aaron E. Martinez / American-Statesman /
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Hunter Barco

The Pirates took Hunter Barco in the second round of the 2022 draft, but he wouldn’t make his professional debut until the second half of the 2023 season. Barco had pitched great in college, but it would take some time before he would return to the mound. But Barco didn’t skip a beat upon his return.

The Bucs were cautious with Barco’s use, only letting him pitch 18.1 innings across nine outings. But the results were great, as he allowed just seven earned runs, six walks, and struck out 28 batters. Barco did not allow a home run either and had a ground ball rate over 50 percent through his first taste of pro baseball.

Barco was only tossing 89-91 MPH last year with Bradenton. But during his brief cameo in the Spring Breaking game this past March, he was sitting 93-95 MPH. His best pitch is considered his change-up, but he’ll also throw a good slider as well. Barco’s lower arm slot and his good command can make his stuff play up.

Barco’s start to 2024 has been nothing short of astounding. He’s only pitched 11 innings but has allowed a single earned run. He has yet to allow a home run as a pro pitcher and currently holds a ground ball rate of 56.5 percent in the small sample size. Walks continue to be a non-issue, as he’s handed out a trio of free passes while striking out 14 batters.

Barco is currently in his age-23 season, so it should not be long before he reaches Altoona. Had he not undergone elbow surgery in 2022, started the next season on the IL, and returned in a limited role, he may have already been a part of Altoona’s starting rotation. Regardless, he’s back and fully healthy and could quickly climb prospect rankings if he pitches anything like he has once he gets to the next rung of the minor league ladder.