In the first installment of their 2022 MLB Staff Draft, Baseball America has the Red Sox selecting University of Florida ace left-hander Hunter Barco with its first-round pick at No. 24 overall.
Baseball America writer Tom Lipari was the one who made the selection, and he noted that Barco is a “solid, pitchability lefty with a history of success in the SEC” who would be a “safe pick and quick mover through any system.”
Barco, 21, was originally selected by the Mets in the 24th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of The Bolles School — the same high school New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones attended.
The Jacksonville native did not sign with New York, however, and instead opted to honor his commitment to Florida. After his freshman season was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Barco earned All-SEC Newcomer honors in 2021.
Through nine starts with the Gators this season, Barco has posted a 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and .187 batting average against to go along with 69 strikeouts to 11 walks over 50 1/3 innings of work. He was forced to leave his last outing against Vanderbilt on April 15 after just two innings due to illness and is now questionable for his next start against Tennessee on Friday.
Barco, who does not turn 22 until December, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 23 draft-eligible prospect in this year’s class, ranking 14th among collegiate players and seventh among pitchers. MLB Pipeline, meanwhile, has Barco coming in at No. 53, which ranks 20th among hurlers who could be drafted in July.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Barco operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a low-90s fastball that tops out at 95 mph, a sweeping slider in the low-80s that can give off the appearance of a curveball, and a changeup that typically clocks in at the low-80s.
Per his Baseball America scouting report, “Barco throws from a low slot that adds deception and helps his stuff play up.” MLB Pipeline, on the other hand, notes that Barco “has done an excellent job of consistently finding the strike zone in college, though there’s improvement that can be made in terms of command within the zone with that funky delivery tough to repeat at times.”
While you have to go back to 2017 to find the last time the Red Sox used a first-round pick on a pitcher (Tanner Houck), the club certainly has not shied away from taking players out of Gainesville in recent years. Jud Fabian (who did not sign), Nathan Hickey, and Wil Dalton stick out there.
Barco could become the latest former Gator to join Boston’s organizational ranks, though plenty could — and likely will — change between now and Day 1 of the 2022 draft in Los Angeles on July 17.
(Picture of Hunter Barco: AP Photo/Gary McCullough)