The MLB Draft began last Sunday with the first and second rounds of the draft. The Cubs had the seventh and 47th picks during the first and second rounds. The Cubs selected Cade Horton and Jackson Ferris with their two selections on the first day.
While many of the top selections in the draft were expected to be hitters, the Cubs chose to emphasize pitching throughout their selections. The organization may have added several good pitching prospects to their farm system last weekend.
Read more about the MLB draft.
Cade Horton, RHP, Oklahoma
Heading into the first round of the MLB Draft it was expected that the first seven picks of the draft would all be hitters, and it was possible that there wouldn’t be a pitcher selected in the Top 10. However, the Texas Rangers quickly proved that expectation wrong when they selected Kumar Rocker with the third overall pick.
The Cubs, like the Rangers, also unexpectedly selected a pitcher, Cade Horton. Horton was a redshirt freshman at the University of Oklahoma last season, but was already draft eligible due to his age.
Horton was already an excellent prospect when he entered college. He was the No.27 high school recruit nationally according to Perfect Game in the Class of 2020, but ultimately chose to attend Oklahoma.
Across his college career Horton only threw 53.2 innings, all last season. He redshirted in 2021 due to Tommy John surgery, but recovered during last season. His four longest outings of his college career came consecutively at the end of the season.
On the mound, Horton had mixed results. His first start of the season was on April 14 against Pacific. During that game, Horton pitched four innings in which he only allowed one hit and did not allow a run. However, he allowed 18 earned runs across 15.2 innings in his next five outings. During that stretch from April 24 to May 21, Horton’s season ERA went from 2.57 to 7.94.
During the end of the season, Horton reversed the trend. His May 29 start against Texas began a season-ending stretch where Horton became key to Oklahoma’s postseason success. Against Texas, Horton pitched 5.1 innings, allowing just one run and earning the victory. During his last five starts of the season, Horton was 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 49 strikeouts. 76% of Horton’s strikeouts for the season came during that five-start stretch to end the year.
His best two starts of the season, and the main reason why he became a Top 10 pick, were two starts at the College World Series. Against Notre Dame, Horton pitched six innings and struck out 11 batters while earning the win and allowing only two earned runs. He followed that up with a 7.1 inning performance against Ole Miss in which he struck out 13 batters and allowed two runs.
Horton’s best pitching is almost certainly ahead of him, and he has plenty of potential to develop. The first priority will be developing a third pitch to add to his fastball and slider. In addition, the Cubs will focus on continuing to strengthen his arm and add stamina as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Jackson Ferris, LHP, IMG Academy
After the Cubs selected Horton in the first round, it gave the team the opportunity to pursue high school players in the second round who could require over-slot deals to sign. They eventually selected Jackson Ferris, a high school left-handed pitcher committed to Ole Miss.
Ferris was one of the best high school pitchers in the MLB draft heading into Sunday. He was No.19 in MLB Pipeline’s Top 250 draft prospects, five spots ahead of Horton, who was No.24. In addition, he was considered the No.9 prospect and No.2 LHP in the 2022 recruiting class according to Perfect Game.
He works with a solid fastball that is in the mid-90s, and that touched the upper 90s during the last year. As with most high school pitchers, the focus will be on consistency with his fastball and the development of his offspeed pitches. The Cubs will also prioritize working with Ferris on his command and his delivery.
It can be incredibly hard to predict how high school pitchers will develop, and the team rarely drafted high school pitchers in the early rounds during Theo Epstein’s tenure as President of Baseball operations. However, this is the second year in a row the franchise has drafted a high school pitcher in the first five rounds after they selected Drew Gray in last year’s MLB draft.
Ferris and Horton were the first two selections in an MLB draft that saw the Cubs select 16 pitchers and only four position players, with only one position player selected by the team in the first 10 rounds. The weakness of the Cubs’ minor league system is undoubtedly pitching, and the franchise will hope that Horton and Ferris, along with the other pitchers they selected, will help address that area of concern heading into the future.