How top prospect Cade Horton could contribute to Cubs in 2024
The hype around top prospect Cade Horton has been building throughout his first full season in pro ball. Cubs’ fans and prospect outlets quickly praised the organization’s 2022 1st-round pick.
As Horton excelled throughout the 2023 season, he skyrocketed up the top prospect rankings, leaving Cubs fans excited about the idea of him taking the bump in the major leagues.
But Horton isn’t letting the hoopla invade his mindset.
“I think it’s awesome,” the 22-year-old righty said at Cubs Convention. “But at the end of the day, I have to go out there and still perform. I think that just comes with the baseball, it’s just, it’s gonna happen, and you have to learn to separate it and just not listen to it.
“And at the end of the day, you just got to go out there and compete.”
It’s what he did last year.
Horton hadn’t pitched in affiliated ball in 2022 after returning earlier that year from Tommy John surgery. He was a spark for the Oklahoma Sooner team that reached the College World Series and that led to the Cubs selecting him in the 1st round at an under-slot value. The Cubs played it slow after he signed, having him work and train at their complex in Mesa, Ariz. and making sure he was 100% for 2023.
The payoff was tremendous.
He posted a 2.65 ERA in 88.1 innings across 21 starts, ending the season at Double-A Tennessee after starting the year at Low-A Myrtle Beach. Horton struck out 33.5% of the hitters he faced (117) and was recently a consensus Top 30 prospect in rankings released by MLB Pipeline, Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America.
While Horton might not be letting the hype creep into his life, if he continues to stick to his mindset and take it day-by-day, it could see him at the big-league level before too long.
The Cubs have shown aggressiveness recently with their pitching prospects — last season, Jordan Wicks, their 2021 first-round pick, began the year at Double-A and reached the majors. Horton could start the season back at Tennessee, like Wicks, before ascending the organizational ladder.
A similar path could be in store for Horton, provided he stays healthy and performs well. The Cubs have a plethora of intriguing, young starters that they can call upon throughout 2024. Arms like Hayden Wesneski, Wicks, Javier Assad and Ben Brown all could make starts at some point for the Cubs.
Horton falls in that boat, too and his major league debut in 2024 could happen for a multitude of reasons. First, of course, is talent. Then it comes to a combination of need and help.
President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has stated before the need to cover 1,400 innings and how it can’t fall on just five starters. Horton’s debut, if it comes later in the season, would allow him to experience the major leagues, help the team win and maybe build in some rest for the Cubs’ rotation nucleus, allowing them a breather to stay healthy for what the team hopes is a push into October.
“At some point Cade Horton, I think, will push Triple-A hard enough that he’s one of your best five pitchers at the major league level,” Marquee Sports Network player development analyst Lance Brozdowski said on the Cubs Weekly Podcast. “We have really good data on the underlying stat side to understand what will play at the major-league level. There’s a point where I think he will be one of the five best starters. That’s a good problem to have as to like, ‘Well then who comes out of the rotation?’
“I think that the maturation of how they’ve constructed this staff is really important. The ability to kind of push into August-September timeline and still have confidence that those guys are not overtaxed into October for a postseason run.”
That, though, isn’t anywhere near Horton’s radar. It’s just about that day for him.
“You just control what you can control,” Horton said. “I can’t control when I’m gonna get called up. The only way I can do that is going out there and performing. That’s really all that matters at the end of the day and so it’s just trusting in that.”