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Five arms to keep an eye on in the Cubs’ farm system

Scott Prerost Avatar
June 12, 2023

In a farm system that began the season ranked in the top half of Major League Baseball per MLB Pipeline, the Cubs have a number of promising young arms that could make an impact on the big league club in the years to come. Four out of their top eight prospects and eight of their top 20 are pitchers, with three of those arms already in Triple-A Iowa. 

Here are five Cubs pitching prospects to keep an eye on:

Cade Horton

(No. 2 Cubs prospect per MLB Pipeline)

As the highest-ranked pitching prospect within the Cubs’ organization, Horton has not disappointed thus far in 2023. After just four appearances with Low-A Myrtle Beach in which he allowed just two runs across 14 1/3 innings, he made the jump to High-A South Bend. 

After a rocky first appearance that would see him allow six runs in 3 2/3 innings of work, Horton has settled in. He has thrown 16 innings over his last four appearances and has allowed four earned runs over that stretch. In his last three outings, he has struck out 27 batters while forcing a swinging strike on 25 percent of his pitches per Baseball Reference.

The Cubs’ 2022 first-round pick is finding his groove with South Bend. If he continues to mow down hitters at this rate, his projected timeline should not be slowed down at all. 

Jordan Wicks

(No. 4 Cubs prospect per MLB Pipeline)

Arguably the most consistent pitcher in the Cubs’ system this year, Wicks has thrown 50 1/3 innings for Tennessee with a 3.40 ERA across 11 appearances. 

Outside of three rocky starts where he allowed four earned runs in each, Wicks has allowed two or fewer earned runs in the other eight. His best performance of the year came in an April 26 game against Birmingham in which he faced the minimum, with the only baserunner coming on a walk. 

With a five-pitch arsenal highlighted by a lights-out changeup, the Cubs’ No. 4 prospect has the potential to make his way to Iowa — and maybe even Chicago — by the end of the season. He looks to be on his way to becoming a big part of the Cubs’ pitching staff for years to come. 

Ben Brown

(No. 6 Cubs prospect per MLB Pipeline)

After dominating with Tennessee through his first four outings of the season, Brown was promoted to Iowa, where he has shown plenty of promise and piled up the most innings of any of these pitchers. 

The Cubs’ No. 6 prospect holds a 4.18 ERA across seven outings in Triple-A, but that number has been hurt by two tough performances. A seven-run outing against Indianapolis and a three-run showing against Columbus are the only two instances this season in which Brown has allowed more than two runs. 

He has shown some inconsistencies with control as he has posted two outings of double-digit strikeouts but also five outings of three or more walks — with a season-high six in his most recent showing. However, with just a .205 batting average and a .363 slugging percentage against him, Brown has shown he has the potential to make a difference in Chicago in the near future. 

Jackson Ferris

(No. 8 Cubs prospect per MLB Pipeline)

At just 19 years old, Jackson Ferris was nothing short of stellar for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans through his first five appearances. Featuring a fastball, a curveball, a changeup and a revamped slider, the Cubs’ 2022 second-round pick out of IMG Academy allowed just one run on five hits with 17 strikeouts to six walks through his first 14 innings for the Cubs’ Low-A affiliate.

He struggled in his most recent outing against Augusta in which he allowed four runs on two hits and four walks with four strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings of work.

Despite that, opposing hitters are still batting just .132 against Ferris with an on-base percentage of .292 and a slugging percentage of .208. Across 65 batters faced, he has allowed 16 fly balls, 16 ground balls a pop up and just five line drives.

Ferris is still young and is not projected to make his way to the big leagues until 2026. However, from the small sample available, he looks like a star in the making in the Cubs’ farm.

Kohl Franklin

(No. 24 Cubs prospect per MLB Pipeline)

Franklin has had a similar path to Horton this season, but at a level higher. After five appearances with South Bend in which he allowed more than one run just once, he was promoted to Double-A Tennessee. 

Again just like Horton — Franklin struggled in his first appearance with the Smokies, as he allowed six runs on eight hits in four innings of work. He has since rebounded with just eight earned runs across 24 2/3 innings with at least three strikeouts in each outing.

Franklin’s best pitch appears to be a mid-to-high-80s changeup to go along with an overpowering fastball in the mid-to-high 90s and a curveball while he has also begun to incorporate a slider according to Bleacher Nation. The Cubs’ 24th-ranked prospect is quickly climbing and could be knocking on the door of the big leagues in 2024.

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