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.
Per Cubs:— Tim Stebbins (@tim_stebbins) July 18, 2022
Cade Horton went 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 49 strikeouts (6 walks) in five postseason starts this year for the Sooners.
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.
Data loves the slider Cade Horton developed late this season. #Cubs— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) July 18, 2022
Averaging 85, up to 90, and generating ~9"+ of horizontal mvmt.
Most harder sliders are thrown w/ more backspin & less horizontal. Not many SPs with that shape – Carlos Rodón comes to mind (obviously a LHP).
And at 88 mph in this particular example (reportedly ranges from 86-90) the total amount of break is truly impressive. Nasty pitch, which should play against hitters from both sides of the plate.— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) July 18, 2022
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).
Cade Horton was disgusting in Omaha.— Mike Monaco (@MikeMonaco_) July 17, 2022
So cool to see his climb down the stretch. @Cubs got a great one.
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.
In an e-mail, @CoachJohnsonOU says he believes Cubs first-rounder Cade Horton can be a “front-end starter” in the Majors. Raved about Horton’s aptitude, “workman’s mentality” and said the pitcher has remained humble. pic.twitter.com/C6PCWoqDfK— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 18, 2022
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.
Cubs Took lefty Drew Gray out of IMG Academy last year as an overslot in the 3rd. Go to same well, this time in the 2nd.https://t.co/sTBixVvvAP— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) July 18, 2022
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.
Kantrovitz teased this as a possible gameplan earlier this week during his pre-draft media session:— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) July 18, 2022
"We have to try to figure out how we optimize our entire draft. And that plays into the calculus of each pick, who we're going to pick and how much we're going to pay them."
#Cubs are crushing this draft. Getting Jackson Ferris AND Cade Horton? Come on. Ferris is a long, lanky lefty up to 97 with big ride and a huge breaking ball. Long track record of being a premium guy. Some Yusei Kikuchi in the operation.— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) July 18, 2022
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.