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In an empty locker inside the Cubs’ clubhouse Thursday hung two jerseys, both in the classic home style, both with a “22” on the back.
No, these weren’t jerseys ready to be worn by the Cubs’ incumbent No. 22, Jason Heyward, who’s been ruled out for the rest of the season and who won’t be returning to the team for the final year of his contract in 2023. Instead, the names on the two jerseys read “Horton” and “Ferris.”
That’d be Cade Horton and Jackson Ferris, the first two Cubs draft picks in last month’s MLB Draft, selected seventh and 47th overall, respectively. The duo wasn’t getting ready to suit up for the Cubs’ 8-3 loss to the Cardinals later Thursday, but they were there to visit the ballpark they hope to one day call home.
Flanked by family members as they snapped pictures in the clubhouse and wandered out to see Wrigley Field for the first time, both were in awe.
“I can feel the history,” Horton said. “It feels super cool. The ivy is awesome. It’s unreal.”
“It’s an experience like none other being out here,” Ferris said. “This is my first time in Chicago, first time at Wrigley, and to be able to see everything that I’ve seen, it’s awesome.”
After an impressive College World Series run with Oklahoma, Horton became the Cubs’ first top 10 pick in seven years.
Without much of a track record as a pitcher despite his potential, though, Horton ended up signing with the Cubs under slot ($4.45 million bonus, per Spotrac). That ultimately gave the club more room to pull Ferris away from his commitment to Ole Miss and sign over slot ($3.005 million, per Spotrac) to join the organization.
A month later, the two finally got a chance to get acquainted with a ballpark they may see in the near future. And in that near future, they may end up playing for the the manager they met for the first time Thursday in David Ross.
That meeting may have meant a bit more for Ferris, whose family roots for the Red Sox and who obviously knows Ross from Boston’s 2013 World Series squad.
“My dad, my mom and my little brother, we all grew up watching the Red Sox, so then seeing him, everyone was just like, ‘Oh my gosh,'” he said. “And then he came up and talked to me, and they were like, ‘Wow.’ It was super cool.”
Meanwhile, Horton may be the one who Ross sees back in the clubhouse first. Having turned 21 last week and with college experience under his belt, Horton is likely ahead of Ferris in terms of a timeline to the big leagues.
No, development isn’t linear and those timelines could shift dramatically as the two moves through the system, but for now, Horton should have a bit of a leg up.
“It was awesome,” he said of his first encounter with the skipper. “It was good to finally meet him, and yeah, it was cool. Hopefully, one day I’ll play for him.”
That day may not come around for a little while, however. MLB Pipeline — who ranked Horton and Ferris as the Cubs’ No. 4 and No. 8 prospects, respectively, in its updated top 30 list — has Horton’s estimated arrival to be in 2025, while Ferris’ arrival is estimated to come a year later.
Either way, the Cubs won’t do anything to try to speed up those timelines.
While chatting with media just outside the home dugout Thursday, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer laid out what the next few months might look like for the two draftees.
The plan isn’t for Horton to play for a minor league affiliate this season like 2021 first-round pick Jordan Wicks did last September, with Hoyer citing recovery from Tommy John surgery that wiped out Horton’s ’21 season and pitching into late June with the Sooners as reasons to ease him in. Meanwhile, Ferris is making the jump from high school to pro ball, and the Cubs don’t see a reason to rush him into game action, either.
Both have spent some time in Arizona since being drafted to get acclimated to their new organization. Ferris said he took a break over summer, but he’s prepared to get back on the mound next week. Horton took his own break after the College World Series, but he said he’s been throwing bullpens to build himself back up.
And for now, that’s as much as the Cubs really want them to be doing.
“Both seem mature for their age, and they’ve been excited to be in Arizona and getting a taste of pro ball,” Hoyer said. “It’s a little different taste, because they’re not competing. They’re throwing bullpens and sort of active rest, so to speak, but I think they’ve learned a lot just being out there, getting around the environment, the guys, roasting in 115-degree weather. They’ll be with us in Instructional League and then most likely over the winter. That’s what we talked about a lot today. It was just what the next six months or so looks like.”
Fans are excited about the two prospects, but their major league debuts are still years away from happening.
Even still, both of them appreciate the opportunity in front of them. They understand there are expectations that come with being a Cub, and they’re looking forward to that challenge.
Their first visit to Wrigley was special, for sure, but that will pale in comparison to the first time they each get to put on a Cubs uniform and go out onto the field for real.
“For me, it’s just like, my grandpa was a big Cubs fan,” said Ferris, whose grandfather, Frank, grew up in Riverside, a western suburb. “I didn’t grow up a Cubs fan, but now being a Cub, it’s something he wanted for me. So it’s super cool. This is everything that I wanted.”
“It’s definitely a kid’s dream to play in the big leagues,” Horton said. “When I come over here, I feel like a kid again. Hopefully one day, I’ll get to play here.”
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