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Player Outlook
Assuming Cade Horton, who had Tommy John surgery in 2021 while at Oklahoma, stayed healthy and showed similar stuff to what he displayed in the 2022 College World Series, he figured to rank as one of the game's top pitching prospects after his first full season, and that's exactly where things stand. The 6-foot-1 righty boasts a mid-90s fastball that regularly touches 98 mph. He also has one of the best sliders in the minors -- a high-spin mid-80s offering. He throws a changeup and curveball, but he doesn't need those pitches much to dominate when he's locating his fastball. Horton tallied 88.1 innings in 21 starts across Single-A, High-A and Double-A. He spent over half the season at High-A, where he had three blowup starts and still managed a 1.00 WHIP and 3.83 ERA. Horton had a seven-start stretch to close the year where he had a 1.16 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 36 strikeouts in 31 innings. He also had a six-start run in the first half at High-A where he had a 1.30 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP with 46 strikeouts in 27.2 innings. We're still waiting to see if he can handle a big-league starter's workload, but Horton has the stuff to dominate at the highest level. Last year, we saw many teams push upper-level pitchers of Horton's caliber to the big leagues quicker than in past years, so a first-half MLB debut could happen for Horton.
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  • Cubs' Cade Horton: Velocity slightly down from 2023

    Horton averaged 93.4 mph (touched 94.9 mph) with his fastball in his first start for Triple-A Iowa on May 4 and averaged 93.9 mph (touched 95.5 mph) in his second start May 10 after sitting at 95-97 mph with his fastball and regularly touching 98 mph in 2023. This doesn't necessarily mean Horton is dealing with anything physically, but it's worth noting that he's not working with the same caliber stuff as was advertised during the offseason. Horton had a 1.10 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and an 18:2 K:BB in 16.1 innings across four starts in a return assignment to Double-A Tennessee before getting promoted to Triple-A at the end of April. He has given up eight earned runs on seven hits, eight walks and two home runs while striking out 11 in seven innings through his first two starts at the highest level of the minors. Since Triple-A pitch velocities are public, it's worth keeping tabs on Horton's pitch velocities over his next few outings to see if things keep trending up. This is also Horton's first experience with the automated balls and strikes system at Triple-A, so perhaps that's partly to blame for his elevated walk rate.
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  • Cubs' Cade Horton: Missing bats at High-A

    Horton has a 3.89 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a 28.7 K-BB% in nine starts (39.1 innings) for High-A South Bend. The No. 7 overall pick in last year's draft, Horton made his first four pro starts at Single-A before quickly getting the bump to High-A in early May. With a slew of promotions and graduations, Horton has a case as one of the top five pitching prospects left in the minors. He has given up five or more earned runs in two of his nine starts at High-A, but he had a dominant seven-start run from May 17 through June 29, logging a 1.76 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 49 strikeouts in 30.2 innings. Given his age (turns 22 in August) and pedigree, Horton should soon get a promotion to Double-A Tennessee.
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  • Cubs' Cade Horton: Bumped to High-A

    Horton will make his High-A debut Wednesday after logging a 1.26 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 14.1 innings across four starts for Single-A Myrtle Beach. The No. 7 overall pick in last year's draft, Horton has one of the best sliders in the minors and was overmatching Single-A hitters in his pro debut. He could feasibly climb beyond High-A this season if he stays healthy, but injuries limited him to 53.2 innings at Oklahoma, so his workload will be monitored.
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