Cade Horton – Picture by Todd Johnson
It is usually late in May when I drop my updated list of draft grades going back to the year 2011. It is usually too early in the year to give a grade to the draft class from the year before. So, today, I will be breaking down the 2022 draft class and giving an initial grade after a year and a half of playing.
What makes this class especially hard to grade is that 1/4 of them had Tommy John surgery and missed the 2023 season. Normally, if that would happen to another class, their initial grade might be a little different in year two. But the 2022 class is looking, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, good!
I can still remember the 2022 draft show that NSB did because I was all about getting Cam Collier in the first round. The Cubs picked seventh and wound up taking Cade Horton, the first pitcher off the board. At the time, Twitter was not happy at all with that pick. A year later, Twitter has a pretty short memory as Horton has turned out to be outstanding and is one of the top five pitchers in all of minor league baseball. He was dominant at Myrtle Beach, struggled a little bit at South Bend and adapted, and has been doing fairly well so far at Tennessee. It looks like he could be ready for Chicago at some point in early 2024. He will be only 22-years-old.
Normally, the first round pick tends to dictate the direction of the draft grade. In 2022, the Cubs were able to sign Horton for a little bit under slot which enabled the Cubs to sign in Jackson Ferris above slot. Ferris has pitched very well at Myrtle Beach this year and has flashed his immense talents at the age of 19 in Low-Class A baseball.
The Cubs wound up taking 15 arms in 2022, but only 10 of them wound up pitching in 2023. We also saw Brody McCullough come in and do a great job along with Connor Noland and Brandon Birdsell. That’s five quality arms and three of them are already top 30 prospects with Birdsell knocking at the door for later this fall.
One of the pitchers who is impressed me most from this class is Luis Rujano. The high school product has thrown really well at Myrtle Beach, first, as a reliever, and then as a starter. In fact, he’s been lights out since moving into the latter role that has been stretched out to four innings a start.
But not every pitcher has been successful. Mason McGwire has had his moments at Mesa and then there are times when he’s had his struggles. Same is true for Branden Noriega and Mat Peters. Nick Hull has pitched well at times and was just promoted to South Bend while free agent Grant Kipp has been coming on strong in the second half as he has been very good since coming to South Bend.
And this is your Nazier Mule paragraph. The young two-way player underwent Tommy John this last spring and missed all of 2023. I am hoping he is ready to go to play opening day in 2024. Whether he is pitching or playing SS, it is still unclear what his role is going to be and his performance in 2024 and beyond will have a huge influence on this grade.
Other names not playing include Shane Marshall, Will Frisch, and JP Wheat. Garrett Brown missed all of 2023 until he pitched in the ACL a week ago.
When it comes to position players in this draft, there were not very many. Christopher Paciolla was the Cubs third round pick and he was the only position guy taken on day two. He played in the Arizona Complex League and he had a pretty good July compared to June where he struggled a bit. He has moved over to third and but he’s going to take some time to develop as a high school player. But he also has the make up of a guy who can learn to adapt.
A big name in this class is Haydn McGeary, who is now the seventh ranked first baseman in minor league baseball by MLB Pipeline. He’s also now a top 30 Cubs prospect that was taken in the 15th round. He’s been nothing short of amazing!
Andy Garriola has flashed the ability to hit for power at times this year at Myrtle Beach. Depending on the month, his average fluctuates, so he needs to be more consistent. But the power profile plays!
As someone who grades for a living, there are a few things to take into consideration here. One is actual production and then the other is potential. I can’t go on and give the class a full “A+” because five guys haven’t thrown a baseball yet. I can’t give it in “A” either, because not everybody has performed well and no one has reached the majors at this point in time.
But the Cubs do have a top 25 prospect in all of minor league baseball. I said earlier, if you were paying attention, that the first pick tends to drive the grade in the draft. While the success of Haydn McGeary and Brody McCullough from D2 schools is nice, it’s really about Horton and how well he does. The fact that he’s at Tennessee and ranked so high so soon is going to get this class an “A-” for their initial grade.
Just a reminder, this is an initial grade. Next year at the end of May, or beginning of June, this class will get a second grade. By that time, Horton could be close to making his major league debut along with McGeary. To get two draft picks to the majors within two years is going to get this class an “A” fairly quickly. Then you add in Ferris, McCullough, Rujano, Birdsell, Mule, and Paciolla, it is a deep, deep class.
At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how they do in the minor leagues. It’s about getting to the majors and doing well there.