With the 44th overall pick in the 2022 MLB draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected left-handed pitcher Hunter Barco from the University of Florida. He had Tommy John surgery recently and won’t return until next year.
Barco was highly rated coming out of high school. This year MLB Pipeline ranked him 75th and Baseball America had him 69th, though no doubt that recent Tommy John surgery affected his rankings. BA has him with a 60 grade for control, 55 grades for his changeup and slider and 50 grades for his fastball. Those are the same grades they had for Thomas Harrington for those pitches/control, who the Pirates selected 36th overall. Unlikely Harrington, the southpaw Barco doesn’t have a fourth pitch.
He throws his fastball in the 90-92 MPH range, getting up to 95 MPH at times, and he commands the ball well. BA notes that his slider is difficult for right and left-handed hitters due to the angle he throws and the sweeping motion. His changeup is mid-80s. BA calls him a likely back of the rotation starter, as long as his recovery goes well. Pipeline gives him the ceiling of a 3/4 starter, noting that his funky delivery (see video below) makes it hard for him to command his pitches at times because it’s not an easily repeatable delivery.
Barco had a nice freshman season during the shortened 2020 season, posting a 1.40 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. His sophomore year saw a bit of a slump, as he posted a 4.01 ERA in 83 innings, with a .239 BAA and a 94:26 SO/BB ratio. This year he had 2.50 ERA, 69 strikeouts and .187 BAA in 50.1 innings before getting hurt. We aren’t going to see him pitch until about the middle of next year. Barco is 6’4″, 210 pounds and he turns 22 in the middle of December.
Here’s video of a strong performance from earlier this year.
Hunter Barco's 10Ks (0 BBs) pic.twitter.com/7GCufwiT2T
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 19, 2022
Here’s the player page for Barco
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.