Two Pirates pitching prospects who could exceed expectations

These two Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospects could exceed expecations given how well the Bucs have done with developing soft-tossing lefties in their recent history.
Florida pitcher Hunter Barco (12) makes a pitch against Mississippi State during the SEC Tournament
Florida pitcher Hunter Barco (12) makes a pitch against Mississippi State during the SEC Tournament / Gary Cosby Jr. via Imagn Content
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Hunter Barco

A year after the Pirates took Anthony Solometo in the second round of the draft, the Bucs then took another soft-tossing left-hander in Hunter Barco out of the University of Florida. Barco didn’t get the immediate chance to hit the ground running like Solometo. After undergoing Tommy John surgery during his final college season, it wouldn’t be until the second half of the 2023 minor league season when Barco would make his return to the mound.

To his credit, he pitched extremely well after his surgery. He was only limited to 18.1 innings as the Bucs eased him back into action, but he had a 3.44 ERA, 1.79 FIP, and 1.25 WHIP. Barco was great at both getting K’s and limiting walks, as he struck out over a third of opponents (35.7%) while owing a sub-8% walk rate (7.7%). Barco had a high 53.5% ground ball rate and flyball rate below 30% at 27.9%, helping him not allow a single longball.

Barco used a sinker, splitter, sweeper, and curveball in his debut with Bradenton last year. The southpaw did not show off much velocity in his debut as he sat around 90-91 MPH with his sinker but was touching 93-95 MPH during his Spring Breakout appearance. Right now, there is, unfortunately, no accurate Statcast data available for his velocity at Greensboro. His splitter sat around 82-84 MPH but, impressively, it had less than 1000 RPM. Last year, only 11 qualified pitchers had a splitter average less than 1000 RPM. Both of his breaking pitches sit in the mid-low 90 MPH range.

While Barco has a similar frame to Solometo, standing at 6’4, 210-LBS, he doesn’t have the similar extension as the other former second-rounder. His release point extension comes out to 5.9 feet. However, he has a low vertical release point at just 5.87 feet. Plus, he throws his stuff with good command and is good at limiting walks, as indicated by his strong career walk rate thus far.

Many peg Barco as a low-floor/high-ceiling type pitcher. Typically, pitchers like that project as a middle-of-the-rotation arm. But Barco has done very well thus far in his pro career. If he continues to make strides, even as he reaches the Major Leagues, maybe he could become a high-tier number three arm, if things work out.