Detroit Tigers Draft

Detroit Tigers 2022 MLB Draft Profile: Cade Horton

OMAHA, NE - June 26: Cade Horton #9 of the Oklahoma Soooners pitches during Men's College World Series game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Charles Schwab Field on June 26, 2022 in Omaha, Nebraska. Ole Miss defeated Oklahoma in the second game of the championship series to win the National Championship. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - June 26: Cade Horton #9 of the Oklahoma Soooners pitches during Men's College World Series game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Charles Schwab Field on June 26, 2022 in Omaha, Nebraska. Ole Miss defeated Oklahoma in the second game of the championship series to win the National Championship. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images) /
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Oklahoma RHP Cade Horton was just mocked to the Detroit Tigers

Cade Horton is a fascinating story. A former two-way player who has gone back and forth between hitting and pitching, he started Game 2 of the College World Series Finals against Ole Miss, striking out 13 batters—a College World Series Finals record. He would be an interesting project for the Detroit Tigers to take on.

Horton, a redshirt freshman who is draft eligible, missed all of the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he’s come back even stronger, touching 98 mph on the radar gun in the College World Series. Prior to this season, he might have been late-round pick, but now he’s got a chance to be the first college pitcher taken.

Background

Horton is a former two-sport athlete. He was the 2019-20 Gatorade Player of the Year in Oklahoma as the standout quarterback for Norman High School. He chose Oklahoma with the intentions of being a two-way player, and also hoped to play football. Because of that, he went undrafted in the 2020 MLB Draft.

Horton underwent Tommy John surgery last season and did not play. He started this season as the Sooners’ starting third baseman before taking the mound again on March 29.

The regular season did not go well for Horton. He had a 7.94 ERA against primarily Big 12 competition. But then he accidently discovered a wipeout slider while trying to throw a cutter while playing catch with one of his teammates, and that has made a world of difference for him.

In postseason play, Horton was a menace on the mound. He had a 2.61 ERA with 49 strikeouts in just 31 innings pitched, including his 13-strikeout performance against Ole Miss in the finals. His fastball sat 94-96 while touching 98, and with that newfound nasty slider, he was virtually unhittable.

Strengths

Horton’s fastball and slider combination is what could make him a whole lot of money in a couple weeks. The story of how he acquired the slider is pretty wild. He was trying to throw a cutter, but with some assistance from his pitching coaches and teammate Ben Abram, he found his new weapon, according to a story from The Athletic.

"Abram mentioned to Horton that when he was a freshman, (Oklahoma Head Coach Skip Johnson) taught him a slider, which he developed over time. Abram watches all of the Oklahoma bullpens and sees himself almost as a player-coach. So, when he noticed Horton was having trouble with the cutter, he invited him to play catch, and during the session, offered some suggestions.“Just think fastball all the way through the delivery,” Abram said.Horton threw the ball. Abram tossed it back.“And right at the end,” Abram said, “keep your wrist a little stiffer.”Horton hummed another. Again, Abram fired it back.“Think about getting it out front.”Horton threw the ball toward Abram, who wondered if the pitch was a fastball, and then the ball fell off the table.“He went from he having no idea what was going on to (having) a big-league slider in a matter of three throws,” Abram said. “It was incredible.”"

Horton’s story really is something. It might the best story of the draft. What has helped him is his athletic ability. Being a former high school quarterback and two-way player requires such. If he ever wanted to try hitting again, he could probably do it.

Weaknesses

While his fastball and slider are a lethal combination, that’s about all he has working for him right now. He’s kind of a two-pitch pitcher at the moment. He also throws a curveball, and he’s toyed with a changeup before, but neither of them are considered quality pitches.

Here’s what MLB Pipeline has to sat about his lack of secondary pitches:

"“His biggest difference-maker was a slider that got much better after he toyed with trying to add a cutter before the Big 12 Conference tournament, giving him a wipeout breaking ball that parks in the mid-80s and reaches 90 mph with two-plane depth. It’s an upgrade over his low-80s downer curveball.Horton also dabbles with a fading changeup, though it’s too firm in the upper 80s and he doesn’t land it for strikes.”"

While his slider has been a revelation, there’s still has some development to be had here. Horton lacks an effective third pitch. Whoever drafts him will have to work with him to further refine his secondary stuff.

Another thing that could keep him from being taken in the first round is his lack of college track record. As impressive as he’s been, it’s only been over a six-start period. Teams value a long track record of high performance when it comes to college arms, and Horton doesn’t really have that. The team that drafts him will certainly be banking on his upside.

Fit with Detroit Tigers

Given the Detroit Tigers’ ability to develop pitching, Horton could be a really fun get. The fact that he’s just 20 years old coming out of college is another bonus. It would be very interesting to see what Gabe Ribas and company could do with him.

Joe Doyle of Prospects Live mocked Horton to the Tigers at 12 in today’s mock draft. While it would be a fun pick, Detroit really, really needs bats in their system. Drafting a pitcher with a small sample size worth of success at the college level in the first round doesn’t seem wise given the circumstances. Horton will almost certainly want a huge payday at that spot as well.

If he’s still available when pick 51 roles around, I would feel much more comfortable taking a shot on him there. Either way, the Detroit Tigers would be banking on upside, which has not had the results that Al Avila and company have hoped for to this point.

Next. Meet new Detroit Tigers pitcher Garrett Hill. dark

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