Through The Prospect Porthole: Hunter Barco

2-23-23 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

At the time of the 2022 MLB Draft there were eight pitchers within baseball writer Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospects, who were in the process of recovering from Tommy John Surgery; with six of them once being considered first round draft picks. Of the later grouping, University of Florida lefty Hunter Barco was toward the front of the pack.

For Barco this wasn’t the first time he was on radar of Major League Teams. Back in 2019 he was the best high school left-hander in the nation; listed at #34 on MLB Pipelines Top 100 Draft Prospects. He would eventually be taken in the 24th Round because of his strong commitment to Florida; which is exactly where he would end up.

As a freshman the Jacksonville native would make 5 appearances, and pitch 19.1 innings. In this extremely small sample size he posted a 1.40 ERA and a 0.879 WHIP.

Then during the shutdown he pitched in the Texas Collegiate League to stay sharp, but only was able to pitch in 3 games for a total of 11 innings. That’s just slightly over 30 innings in two years. Due to this it was no surprise that he was a little rusty the next time he took the mound at Condron Family Ballpark in Gainesville.

As a member of the Gators’ rotation, Barco would make 16 starts, pitch 83 innings and post a 4.01 ERA with an 1.241 WHIP. During the season strikeouts weren’t much of an issue, as he sat down 94 batters; and, neither were walks really, as he gave up only 26 free passes. It was regular contact; or really hard contact to be more specific. In the aforementioned 83 innings he allowed 77 hits, with 9 of them being homers.

Coming off a somewhat down year in 2021, the now 21 year old lefty came out firing bullets. Over nine starts, across 50.1 innings, Barco struck out 69 while walking only 11; good for a 2.50 ERA and a .894 WHIP.

During his final start of the season he lasted only two innings before being removed from the game with elbow discomfort; ultimately announcing he had undergone TJ surgery a few weeks later.

While watching the MLB Network Draft Coverage, I remember Jonathan Mayo speaking about the positives, and potential negatives of Barco’s crossfire delivery as something the Pirates might need to address; which worries me to a degree.

If the deceptive delivery is the reason for the success of what is seen as an average low-90’s fastball, how could an adjustment affect this? Will he be able to shape his mid-80’s slider in the same manner, in order to miss as many as bats he has in the past? Can he use the same arm action to disguise his changeup?

Unfortunately the answers to these only lead to more questions at the moment.

Like where is Barco in his rehab process? On average recovery time for Tommy John is around 9 months to a year-with some athletes taking as much as 2 years to get back to their previous ability level. Well, he’s at between 9 and 10 months right now; and all we know is that he started playing catch back at the end of October.

The next question would be, where does he start his professional career? The FCL? Bradenton? Maybe Greensboro? Additionally how aggressive will they be with potential future promotions?

And finally, is he going to be given a chance to start? Or, will they be cautious with his recovery by making a move to the bullpen?

To these questions, I didn’t have any answers; that was until I heard from the man himself.

Here’s what Hunter had to say:

I am almost 10 months out of surgery, and everything has gone extremely well to this point. Lots of credit to the Pirates training staff because my arm and body feels better and stronger than it ever has before. My throwing program has gone smoothly and I threw off a slope for the first time (only about 60% effort) on Tuesday the 14th. If everything continues to go according to plan, I will be game ready some time between June-July

Obviously some questions are still left unanswered; and may remain that way, until we are closer to the current June-July timeline.

So for now, we wait.

A giant thank you to Hunter himself for not only being open to this post being published, but also for providing direct input on his rehab progress.

Please follow him on his main social-Instagram -and show your support to this young man as he continues his rehab.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

2 thoughts on “Through The Prospect Porthole: Hunter Barco

    1. Agreed. Here’s hoping he really is better than ever. Questions abound indeed. I wonder whether they start him in Bradenton and then rapidly elevate to Greensboro if he makes quick work of it.


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