2022 Draft: Cubs go with high upside pitchers Cade Horton and Jackson Ferris on Day 1

Round 1 (7): RHP Cade Horton – 6’1 211, Age 20 – Oklahoma

BONUS SLOT VALUE: $5,708,000

A redshirt sophomore, Cade Horton shot up draft boards in the 2nd half of the 2022 collegiate season, finishing the year with a terrific postseason run for the Sooners beginning with the Conference title game and continuing through the College World Series.

It was an amazing ascent given Horton originally went to Norman as a two-sport prep star, who competed with the Sooners football team in 2020, before giving it up and concentrating on baseball in 2021. He ended up needing to take a redshirt season because of an elbow injury which required TJS in the spring. He opened the 2022 season still recovering and was used mostly as a 3B/SS before finally making his debut on the mound in March. His numbers early on were ugly (even with his terrific final 5 starts his overall ERA remained elevated at an 4.86).

But the raw tools were there (mid-to-upper-90s heat, high spin rates on breaking ball, as well as his plus athleticism), and even as he struggled he was garnering strong draft interest. It was when Horton developed a new slider during the season that things took off for him. It’s a nasty pitch, which generates good horizontal and vertical break that makes it an effective pitch against both right and left handed batters. There is also some deception as Horton pitches from a lower arm angle that makes his vertical drop seem unusual.

Once that pitch was in place it was bad news for opposing hitters the rest of the way. By the time the College World Series ended Horton was widely considered the best college pitcher available in the draft (with the caveat that some of his potential competition suffered injuries during the 2022 season to take them out of the running).

The Cubs pitching development infrastructure has been making big moves over the past couple of years generating big velo jumps from prospects, and showing improved ability to refine breaking pitches (including teaching the trendy sweeping slider). What’s been missing is a stockpile of high end raw talent with which to mold a potential TOR starter. Horton brings that.

Round 2 (47): LHP Jackson Ferris – 6’4 195, Age 18 – IMG Academy (FL)

BONUS SLOT VALUE: $1,660,400

The Cubs didn’t settle for one high upside arm on Day 1 of the draft, they decided to double dip, this time from the prep ranks, plucking big lefty Jackson Ferris out of IMG Academy in Florida, one of the top programs in the country.

Ferris has long been on the radar of scouts, and really made a name for himself with an impressive outing at last year’s Perfect Game Showcase event, striking out six batters across his two innings of work.

Considering Ferris already throws mid-90s, has a projectable frame, and already shows feel for four pitches it is easy to see why Cubs VP of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz targeted him in the 2nd, as was so ecstatic to see the youngster still be available when their pick came around.

The goal for the pitching development team with Horton will likely be to refine his stuff, but with Ferris may well be to clean up his mechanics and simplify his arm path in order to unlock better consistency and control.

Filed under: MLB Draft, prospects

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  • I’m really intrigued by these 2 picks. I’m guessing their talks with Horton probably revealed they could sign him for at least about a million under slot and save money for Ferris who I’m guessing will be wanting probably close to $3m. Regardless I hope they both get signed. Really like that they are going for guys with potential to pitch at the top of the rotation. They need that so bad.

  • I really really hope Horton makes it. After reading Keith's Law evaluation of the Cubs first round pick, I think somebody must have dropped Law on his head when he was a baby. The Cubs second round pick looks great on the videos posted.

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