2022 MLB Draft: How the Cubs’ Cade Horton rose to #7 – NBC Chicago | Hot Mobile Press

How Horton advanced to the first round of the Cubs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Cade Horton made his first appearance for Oklahoma in 2022 — not to mention his first appearance in college — through the end of March.

But what he showed from there led to him being ranked No. 7 overall by the Cubs in the 2022 MLB draft.

“I think what we started to see towards the end with his performance in Omaha in the College World Series was indicative of the Cade Horton that we’re going to see going forward,” said Dan Kantrovitz, the Cubs VP Scouting.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him either.”

Horton, who turns 21 next month, missed his entire 2021 freshman season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and started 2022 as a two-way player.

He opened in the bullpen as the Sooners slow played his return after his surgery and eventually moved up the rotation.

In nine regular season appearances, he posted a 7.94 ERA in 22 2/3 innings.

“If you’d asked me two months ago if Cade Horton would be a top target on the roadmap, I might have been a little skeptical,” Kantrovitz said.

“But then fast forward and just watch the trajectory.”

In his last regular season appearance, Horton gave up eight runs in 3 1/3 innings against Texas Tech. He knew he had to do something else.

“Even before Texas Tech,” Horton said, “I felt like guys really got into fastball and sat on a field, either breaking ball or fastball, and once they had it, they just hammered it.”

Horton hosted a bullpen session following that Texas Tech start, attended by Sooners head coach Skip Johnson and former MLB player Brett Eibner as he learned a new slider/cutter pitch grip.

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Before the Sooners played Texas in the Big 12 baseball tournament, Horton worked with teammate Ben Abram to develop the field.

Originally, Abram – who advised Horton to “lock out” his wrist – wanted to teach him how to cut. It evolved into a slider and “looked really good” in a bullpen session, Horton said.

He threw the slider for the first time on his start against the Longhorns, allowing one run and two hits in 5 1/3 innings in that game, striking out nine.

That was the catalyst for Horton’s dominant run during the postseason. In five starts, he went 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 49 strikeouts (six walks) in 31 innings.

That includes two dominant starts in the College World Series. Horton threw six innings of two-run ball against Notre Dame and hit out 11 and 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball against Ole Miss and hit out 13.

“At Cade, I think he’s been on that uptick all season,” Kantrovitz said. “When you isolate, show the last few starts, it’s consistent with someone who’s learned a new pitch. In his case, it was a wipeout slider.

“We saw that he had the feeling for it,” added Kantrowitz. “We saw a bit more dizziness in his fastball and improved control at the same time – again consistent with someone who was sort of rehabilitating initially and then really comes into its own.

“It’s an indication of a situation where I think you just want to make sure you take everything into account and wait as long as possible to make a decision.”

Kantrovitz said the Cubs are excited about Horton’s slider as a “swing-and-miss weapon.” It’s part of an arsenal that includes a changeup and a mid-to-late 90’s “plus” fastball.

“Once he gets a little bit more life and can handle that,” Kantrovitz said, “it’ll end up being a pretty complete repertoire.”

Kantrovitz, who said Horton was the Cubs’ “prime target” in the first round, saw one of Horton’s College World Series starts. A handful of Cubs scouts also saw him field this year.

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But as much as he showed up on the line with the Sooners, Horton crossed the Cubs’ radar well before last spring.

Kantrovitz and area scout Ty Nichols visited Horton’s home two years ago when he was debating going to Oklahoma or drafting in the 2020 draft.

When Kantrovitz called Horton Sunday night to congratulate him, he asked him if he remembered that visit.

“Of course he said he did it,” Kantrovitz said, smiling. “It was nice to hear that and that that connection remains intact.

“That’s something that, by building the player’s story in this way, gave us confidence that we had a pretty good handle on his makeup as well.”

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