Cade Horton Promoted to Iowa, Call to Chicago May Come Soon

Cade Horton is a bad man. The Cubs’ top pitching prospect dominated across three levels of the minors last season, ending his year at Double-A Tennessee. He was back there again to start the 2024 campaign following a little work at extended spring training to complete a controlled preseason program, but now he’s moving on up to Iowa. As reported by Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register, the Cubs are promoting Horton to Triple-A.

Through four starts with the Smokies, Horton was 1-0 with a 1.10 ERA and 18 strikeouts to just one walk. His most recent outing was his longest of the year as he went five shutout innings with six strikeouts, no walks, and five scattered hits. As good as he’s been to this point, you get the feeling he’s got the cruise control set to just a few ticks over the speed limit.

What I’m saying is that Horton could easily stomp the pedal and shift over to the passing lane to blow opponents away if he chose to. We may start to see that in Iowa as he prepares for a call to Chicago that could come sooner than later. The Cubs have already dealt with several injuries to a rotation that lacks dynamism even if it’s working effectively, and Horton could be the piece that ratchets them up a level.

The Cubs enter Tuesday’s action with a half-game division lead over the Brewers and the third-best record in the National League. They just set a franchise high for wins through April with 18 and they’ve done it with several key players missing big chunks of the season already. You can’t take either contention or a pitcher’s health for granted, so Horton should be on the MLB roster before summer officially starts.

Even though no one asked, I’m going to go ahead and put the kibosh on any service time discussions here. That stuff doesn’t work the same for pitchers because of the aforementioned health concerns, plus we’re already well past the threshold for the Cubs to manipulate that extra year. If anything, they’d keep him down all season in order to be in line for prospect promotion incentives next year, though that would be incredibly foolish.

It’s probably far too optimistic to hope for a promotion in the next three weeks or so, but it’s notable that Mark Prior made his MLB debut on May 22, 2002 after six starts at Double-A and three at Triple-A. If Horton maintains his same schedule, he could easily get four starts for the I-Cubs by that date.

With this in mind, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Cubs handle the respective rehabs of Kyle Hendricks and Drew Smyly. After all, Horton doesn’t have to come up as a starter. Definitely something to keep an eye on over the coming days.

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