Cubs could be positioning this top prospect for a Major League debut this season

The Chicago Cubs top pitching prospect may be at Wrigley Field by the end of 2024.

Cade Horton makes a practice pitch before the South Bend Cubs vs. Fort Qayne TinCaps game at Four
Cade Horton makes a practice pitch before the South Bend Cubs vs. Fort Qayne TinCaps game at Four / MATTIE NERETIN / USA TODAY NETWORK

Cade Horton represents the type of prospect that the Chicago Cubs haven't had since Mark Prior.

On the heels of Justin Steele earning his first-career Opening Day start, the Cubs appear to have an ace in the making in Horton.

While Steele's start on Opening Day will be a milestone for the organization, the first homegrown left-handed pitcher to receive such an honor for the team, there is a fear that regression may occur this season. Steele finished the 2023 season fifth in voting for the National League Cy Young award voting. 2024 will be confirmation of the type of pitcher Steele will be moving forward.

If Steele is not the top-of-the-rotation pitcher that he was during the 2023 season, while not ideal, it's an outcome that shouldn't set the team's long-term outlook back.

Horton is the reason why.

It's been a long time since the Chicago Cubs have had a prospect like Cade Horton.

Entering the 2024 season, prospect evaluators are beginning to place Horton at the top of the Cubs' prospect rankings. While the Cubs' initial Spring Training roster included top prospects in Matt Shaw, Owen Caissie, and Kevin Alcantara, there was some surprise that Horton was not included among the non-roster invites.

The belief was that the Cubs wanted to limit Horton's innings at the start of the 2024 season. Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic (Subscription Required) provided an update on Horton while speaking with Cubs' director of pitching, Ryan Otero.

Otero confirmed that the Cubs are cautious with Horton's workload as the team's top pitching prospect works in simulated games during Spring Training. Otero did not rule out a Major League debut for Horton this season, but the organization has yet to determine where the pitching prospect will be placed at the start.

Horton finished 2023 at the Double-A level, posting an ERA of 1.33 in 6 starts with a strikeout percentage of 28.4%. A return to Double-A may be the likely outcome for Horton to open the 2024 season, but he could be on the fast track from there.

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