Rather than spend a few hundred words setting this up, I’ll simply direct your attention to the video below that was tweeted out Monday by MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis. In it we see righty Cade Horton, the Cubs’ top draft pick last summer, tossing live BP at the team’s Sloan Park complex. The first slider is particularly fun.
— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) March 13, 2023
Many were shocked when Horton’s name was called at No. 7 out of the University of Oklahoma, but concerns about a reach have more or less evaporated. The 21-year-old is already the fourth-ranked prospect in the organization according to Pipeline and he could be a fast mover through the system if he pitches in the minors like he did at the end of his OU tenure.
Horton has a fastball that touches 98 with arm-side run, a hard slider with depth and sweep, and a low-80s curve he’s still working to improve. He also has a changeup, but it’s going to need a lot of refinement before it’s a worthwhile professional pitch. In addition to his raw stuff, the Cubs really love Horton’s athleticism. He had initially planned to play quarterback at OU and, though that didn’t pan out, he was the Sooners’ starting third baseman last season.
Tommy John surgery limited Horton to just one season in Norman, so he’s got a total of only 53.2 collegiate innings over 14 appearances (11 starts). His regular season ERA of 7.94 certainly didn’t scream that he was a top-10 pick, but his run of success during the Big 12 Tournament and College World Series showed just how good that fastball/slider combo can be.
This is not a pick the Cubs would have made prior to 2019, when they finally realized you can’t build a pitching pipeline by valuing perceived safety over high ceilings. Talent alone won’t get it done though, so now it’s a matter of Horton proving over a full season that he’s the real deal.