Cade Horton – Picture by Oklahoma Athletics
North Side Bound is back with another mailbag and this one is all about the Cubs 2022 first round pick, Cade Horton.
Today’s question comes from Thufir Hawat via email. Thanks for the question!
Thufir has set up a high bar for Horton by setting the lowest level at Tennessee. And while Cade is a bad man, it may still be a lot to ask of the 7th overall pick from this past year.
Let’s get started!
This is a pretty easy one, in my eyes. Look no further than the Cubs’ 2021 first round draft pick, Jordan Wicks, to get an idea of the projected progression of 2022 first round draft pick, Cade Horton. While the two guys are very different on the mound in terms of how they attack hitters, they each come from the Big 12 and are big-bodied starters.
I’m fairly confident we will see Horton assigned to South Bend to begin next year’s campaign. Whether we see him go half and half between High-A and Double-A or closer to 85%/15% will depend on how dominating he is during his time in Northern Indiana.
Horton was a surprise pick to the writers of NSB, but the Cubs had zeroed in on him months before the draft. It was clear that they had a high impression of the pitcher he already was (best exemplified by his incredible performance in the College World Series) and the pitcher he could be. His fastball/slider combination is lethal.
I think that Cade is ticketed to South Bend to start 2023 and a similar timeline to Jordan Wicks feels right for Horton. I’d expect Horton to work this offseason to add to his repertoire like Wicks did last year. Tennessee is the most likely ending point for the righthander.
But as the weather starts turning cold, let’s put out a hot take. I think it’s plausible that Horton finishes the year in the Chicago bullpen. Had the Cubs been in contention this year, I believe it could have been a real possibility that pitchers like Wicks (and others at AA or even lower) could have been deployed out of the pen late in the season. Horton stood out on college baseball’s biggest stage and his fastball/slider combination would play out of the pen during a playoff run.
This is a really good question and a really hard question since Horton has thrown….<checks notes>…zero pitches as a professional baseball player. Still, his stuff was good enough to get him drafted seventh in the 2022 draft. The Cubs believed the stuff was real and the new pitch (a slider) was that good. Based on that assumption and the fact he played in a power conference in the Big 12, he should start 2023 in South Bend. The bottom line for this question is that he’s going to have to dominate at two levels to get to Iowa. In defining what it means to dominate at High-A and Double-A, we’re talking an ERA of 2.00 and under and a high K rate. Horton could do that at South Bend. Tennessee is another question altogether. I will be brash here and say that he can do well at Tennessee. But to get to Iowa, he’s going to have be ultra dominant at South Bend and move up to Double-A by mid-May. He might get six starts in by May 15 and be gone which makes Iowa a much easier destination as it gives him more time to get adjusted in Tennessee. He would still have to be good at Tennessee (sub 3.00) to get to Iowa in August, but he would not have to be dominant, but rather consistently good. I could see that happening.