Cubs Prospect Profile: Cade Horton
Photo courtesy: Smokies

Cubs Prospect Profile: Cade Horton

by - Senior Writer -

When all is said and done, and everyone has time to reflect on the 2022 MLB Draft 10 years from now, the Cubs may go down as the team with the biggest steal in that entire draft. It happened in the first round, and it came after David Ross and his team sold off the entire World Series Core, minus Willson Contreras and Kyle Hendricks, to earn the No. 7 pick in that draft.

With so many holes to fill, no one knew exactly what the Cubs would do, although some had an idea in mind. Even the ones who thought this team would go after a pitcher at No. 7, not many expected them to land who they did, and no one expected him to turn into one of the best prospects in baseball in just one season with the potential to be the best player in this entire class.

Cade Horton is a name that the baseball world is quickly getting familiar with and is arguably the best pitching prospect the Cubs have had since Mark Prior in the early 2000s. One of the best two-way prospects coming out of high school in 2020, Horton committed to the University of Oklahoma to pitch and continue playing third base.

However, he went undrafted coming out of high school mainly because he wanted to do both baseball and football in college. Not only did Horton not see any action on the football field, but he also underwent Tommy John surgery his freshman season and didn't see a single inning on the Mound. Once he was cleared to play, Horton began the season as the Sooners starting third basemen before taking the Mound for the first time in late March.

Things were a struggle for him in 2022 as he finished the season with a 7.94 ERA, but what he did in the postseason caught the scouts attention. All it took was for him to put together one of the best three-week stretches anyone has ever seen in Omaha as he dominated on the Mound to lead the Sooners to a second-place finish. What he showed during those three weeks had people talking, and the Cubs pounced on him by offering him close to 4.5 million dollars.

Even after his showing in the college world series, the Cubs wanted to make sure he would be healthy and elected not to pitch him until 2023. That might have been the best thing the organization could've done for him, as Horton not only regained the velocity he once had but went on to become the best pitcher in the organization and one of the best arms in the game.

Horton started the season in Myrtle Beach, where he made four starts and dominated to a 1.26 ERA. He walked four and struck out 21 in just over 14 innings, as Low-A was no match for him. Then came High-A South Bend, where he spent most of his season, making 11 starts and going 3-3 with a 3.83 ERA. While those numbers are respectable, the 12BB and 65K in 47 innings are elite as he continued to dominate hitters as the Cubs felt AA was the next challenge on his list.

Despite only making six starts, they were six impressive starts yet again as he went 1-1 with the Smokies while posting a microscopic 1.33 ERA in 27 innings. Once again, the command and his ability to overpower hitters stood out as he walked 11 and struck out 31. That means for the season he made 21 starts posting a 4-4 record and a 2.65 ERA, all while walking 27 and striking out 117 in under 90 innings. Talk about a dominating figure on the mound with ace potential.

Had it not been for his injury, there is a good chance Horton makes it to AAA last season with a shot at making the opening day roster in 2024. Well, that could still be in the cards, as many expect him to be on the Cubs roster sometime next season as long as he can go out and shove during his time in Iowa.

Horton has always been known as a guy who can throw 94-96, but last summer, he averaged 96-plus on his heater while also touching 98-99 consistently. His slider improved significantly after he toyed with adding a cutter before the Big 12 Conference tournament, becoming a wipeout two-plane breaker that parks in the mid-80s and reaches 90 mph. That pitch makes him one of the best pitchers in the game, as hitters have no answers for how to hit that pitch.

Horton is good enough to get away with only two pitches, but he will need a third pitch to be a successful pitcher at the MLB level. A change-up could be that pitch or his 84 MPH curve, as both of those are expected to see an uptick in use this upcoming season. A quality athlete who looked a bit rusty but not overmatched at third base for Oklahoma, he had no trouble pounding the zone with his fastball and slider at the end of the college season, which continued in a big way at the MLB Level.

He has a short track record of performance, though he'll have to prove he can stay healthy and maintain his stuff over a full year of starts. With 21 starts under his belt and limited innings in 2023, expect the Cubs to continue to monitor that arm one more season before turning him completely loose. However, once that happens, Horton is going to be a nightmare for anyone to face for the next decade as he has the stuff to be an Ace for a long time.

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