With a masterful postseason performance, Cade Horton led Oklahoma to a runner-up finish in the College World Series and elevated his draft stock. Despite struggling in the regular season, the right-hander firmly put himself into first-round potential. Let’s take a look at what Horton brings to the mound.
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Cade Horton, RHP, Oklahoma
Weight: 211 lbs.
2022: 14 G, 11 GS, 53 2/3 IP, 5-2, 4.86 ERA, 1.304 WHIP, 64 K, 15 BB
Horton missed the entire 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in February. That was after he had gone undrafted in the 2020 MLB Draft as his strong commitment to Oklahoma made him unsignable, despite being a top two-way prospect. He started this season as the starting third baseman for the Sooners before making his pitching debut on March 29. His stock was way down when he finished the regular season with a 7.94 ERA, but soared when he posted a 2.61 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 31 innings over five postseason starts. That included a College World Series finals start where he struck out a finals record 13 batters, with the Sooners ultimately dropping the game and the series to Ole Miss.
Horton’s struggles in the regular season can be pointed towards his recovery from Tommy John surgery. His velocity returned pretty quickly, but his command on life on the fastball did not. That caused his heater to be hit all season until he was able to command the pitch very well in the postseason. It sat 94-96 mph and topped out at 98 mph in the playoffs. His pitch arsenal features a wipeout slider that sits in the mid-80s and can reach the low-90s. Even before his breakout in the postseason, Horton had a lot of raw arm strength and potential, he just hadn’t shown it yet. The redshirt freshman has tremendous stuff and once he was able to learn how to command it, it was lights out for offenses. The Norman, Oklahoma native struck out 24 batters at the College World Series while allowing four runs in 13 1/3 innings. On top of the stuff, Horton also carries great mojo and poise, which was seen on the biggest of stages in Omaha.
Having less than 60 innings of work in college could veer some teams away from drafting Horton. Although he proved himself when the lights were brightest, he will need to remain consistent at the next level. He also occasionally throws a fading changeup, but isn’t able to land it for strikes as it can get too firm. But even with the lack of experience, Horton has a high ceiling of a No. 2 or No. 3 starter. It is hard to pinpoint too many weaknesses with the stud pitcher.
Pro Comparison: Dylan Cease
Like Horton, Cease also underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2014 as a senior in high school, causing him to drop down to the sixth round of the draft. Cease was able to break out last season with an improved combination of his fastball and slider, along with a curveball and a changeup in his arsenal. The White Sox right-hander is starting to look like an ace, and Horton could develop in a similar way.
Draft Projection: Late First to Early Second Round
As mentioned, Horton’s breakout in the postseason catapulted him into first-round potential. At this point, it is safe to say he will be selected within the top 40 to 50 picks. Teams in the late 20s and early 30s like the Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays, and San Francisco Giants could take a shot on the right-hander. Those are teams that have a long history of strong pitching development and could really tap into Horton’s full ceiling.
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