When the Pittsburgh Pirates selected left-handed pitcher Hunter Barco at No. 44 overall in Sunday’s first and second rounds of the MLB Draft, fans had mixed emotions.
After a successful season at the University of Florida, in which he went 5-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 50 innings, Barco underwent Tommy John surgery in May to reconstruct his UCL. This caused a stir among fans as they wondered why the Pirates used an early pick on him, but the focus lies on what he did with the Gators, rather than the aforementioned procedure.
In three years, spanning from 2020 to this year, Barco collected more than 189 strikeouts over 152.2 innings pitched while allowing just 43 walks. Not to mention, he posted a career record of 17-5 with a 3.18 ERA.
His only real negative mark came during the 2021 regular season, when he posted an ERA over four, but aside from two outings where he gave up five or more runs, he limited opposing teams to three runs or fewer during the rest of the season.
Along with that, he helped the Gators take down NCAA juggernaut Vanderbilt that season, 5-3, thanks to a performance headlined by seven strikeouts.
Probably the most fascinating thing about Barco, however, is his effectiveness with low velocity.
His four-seam tops out around 92-93 mph., but compliments that with a hooking slider and a changeup that had a spin rate of 1,000 rpm. in 2019, according to FanGraphs.
Hunter Barco has the potential to make a lot of money playing baseball. His pitches are so sharp and the deception he creates is elite. pic.twitter.com/DokcsX1DKC— Jacob Rudner (@Jacob_Rudner) February 26, 2022
Additionally, he has a splitter which has been compared to that of Aroldis Chapman’s.
This reminded me of Florida LHP Hunter Barco's split, which I saw again last Thursday at UGA https://t.co/Uejv0e6h4W pic.twitter.com/SYnotH446u— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) April 5, 2022
Surely, there will be some concern with Barco, as his delivery heavily stresses his elbow, but with the right coaching and slow development once he’s ready to pitch again, he could be one of the more underrated picks from this year’s draft.