College | Story | 2/23/2020

College Notebook: February 23

Vincent Cervino         Steve Fiorindo        
Photo: Hunter Barco (Carl Kafka)

College Notebooks: Feb. 21
 | Feb. 22 | Alabama/UNLVCollege Player Database | College Player Rankings

Players covered: Hunter Barco (Florida), David Luethje (Florida), Ryan Cabarcas (Florida), Slade Cecconi (Miami), Carson Palmquist (Miami).

Hunter Barco, LHP, Florida
Hunter Barco was one of the top prep prospects to make it to campus following the 2019 draft, and his debut as a weekend starter for the Gators has to be exactly what Coach Kevin O’Sullivan and his staff envisioned when they found out he was coming in June of 2019. Barco was very effective against the top 10-ranked Canes as he tossed 5 1/3 innings of one-run baseball while striking out seven batters in the process.

Barco looks like he’s added weight to the frame but still has a broad-shouldered, large and athletic build at a listed 6-foot-4, 215-pounds. His delivery involves some moving parts, with legs and arms flying at the hitter, and is deceptive especially given the arm action and the low three-quarters arm slot he delivers from. This generates serious angle to the plate and makes for an uncomfortable at-bat regardless of the hitters handedness.

The fastball was up to 94 mph and sat mostly in the 89-93 mph range and he held that velocity even as he dipped in the middle innings, before ramping it up to the top end of that range toward the end of the outing. The pitch showed some good life, especially in the bottom of the strike zone, and that coupled with Barco’s tough arm slot allowed for it to be tough to square up.

Barco was famous for his split-change in high school and he threw a good majority of  sliders as off-speed pitches during Sunday’s game. He left a couple of splits up in the zone and didn’t show great feel for it early so he went to what was working: his slider. The breaker is a sweeping slider, working generally in the 79-82 mph range, and showed out as above average and Barco was particularly adept at starting the pitch coming toward lefthanded hitters before it darted toward the inside corner for called strikes. The splitter was still there when he needed it though and it flashed plus potential. One such example that stood out was when he froze a righthanded hitter with a two-strike splitter that broke right back over the plate for a called strike to end the bases loaded threat.

His ability to sequence stood out, mixing in a good amount of off-speed pitches and showing he had a plan for attacking hitters. The fastball command wasn’t great as he would miss his spots at times and others fall behind and be forced to give up a hittable pitch, but he worked it within the strike zone well enough to keep hitters honest. Six of his seven strikeouts on the day came from the slider which he was clearly showing a good feel for as the game wore on.

This is the first weekend start of what we can assume will be his three-year career at Florida, as Barco doesn’t look like he’ll be giving up his spot in the rotation anytime soon and he has all the makings of a first-round pick in 2022. That is quite a bit away so for now the Gators can enjoy Barco’s pitching every weekend.

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