Cubs draft Oklahoma righty Cade Horton with 7th overall pick

Horton struck out 49 in his last 31 innings for the Sooners, including a 13-strikeout performance against eventual champion Mississippi at the College World Series.

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2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Baseball Championship

Cade Horton pitches during the Men’s College World Series last month in Omaha, Neb.

Eric Francis/Getty Images

The Cubs are banking heavily on Cade Horton’s upside after selecting the Oklahoma redshirt freshman right-hander with the seventh overall pick of the MLB Draft on Sunday night.

“The Cubs were on the radar,” Horton said during a Zoom conference call with reporters. “I didn’t know where.”

Horton struck out 49 in his last 31 innings for the Sooners, including a 13-strikeout performance against eventual champion Mississippi at the College World Series.

He also struck out 11 against Notre Dame at the CWS and was 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his last five starts.

“It was awesome to be on that stage,” Horton said of his CWS experience.

With the aid of a fastball that touched 98 mph and a newly developed slider, those achievements were enough to persuade the Cubs to select him as the second pitcher taken in the draft.

“He’s going to be a No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the big leagues,” Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson wrote in an email.

Horton, however, missed all of 2021 because of Tommy John surgery, didn’t make his 2022 pitching debut until March 29 and finished with a 5-2 record and 4.86 ERA in 14 games (11 starts). He struck out 64 and walked 15 in 53‰ innings.

“I think you have to put everything in context,” said Dan Kantrovitz, the Cubs’ vice president of scouting, pointing to Horton’s gradual improvement and his scouts keeping an open mind on his development.

Baseball America projected Horton as the 23rd prospect in the draft. He was ranked as its 65th prospect out of Norman High School and played quarterback, but he honored his commitment to the Sooners.

“I knew my future was in baseball,” Horton said. “I love baseball more than football; that’s what made me make the decision to focus on baseball.”

The 6-1, 211-pound Horton made 25 starts at third base, four at shortstop and 11 as a designated hitter and batted .234 with 17 RBI in 145 at-bats. He earned first-team freshman All-America honors by Baseball America.

“It’s been crazy,” Horton said.

Horton thanked teammate Ben Abram for helping him with the grip on a slider during the Big 12 tournament, highlighted by a victory over Texas.

“Clearly, when we break down his repertoire, that’s a pitch that stands out,” Kantrovitz said.

Horton has some Chicago ties. His best friend is OU outfielder Kendall Pettis, who graduated from Brother Rice, and one of the first people he called after being selected was shortstop Ed Howard, the Cubs’ first pick in the 2020 draft.

Horton and Howard were summer-ball teammates in 2019, and Howard committed to OU before signing with the Cubs.

It’s possible the Cubs could sign Horton to a bonus under the assigned value of $5.708 million and use that savings toward second-round pick Jackson Ferris, a left-hander from IMG Academy who is committed to Mississippi.

Ferris possesses a 96 mph fastball, a big curve and a changeup that ranked fourth among prep draft prospects by Baseball America.

Steele, Stroman to open second half

Justin Steele, Marcus Stroman and Drew Smyly will start the first three games of the second half in Philadelphia.

Keegan Thompson and Adrian Sampson will start the Pirates series at Wrigley Field.

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