The discussion around the Chicago Cubs’ first round pick, Cade Horton, was all about (1) the surprise of it, (2) the high-risk, high-reward in a late breakout like Horton, and (3) what it might mean for later picks. Specifically: was Horton going to come in under slot? Enough under slot to let the Cubs take a big swing in the second round?
Well, we don’t know bonus figures yet, but the Cubs definitely just took a big swing in the second: the Cubs drafted high school lefty Jackson Ferris out of IMG Academy, one of the top high school arms in the draft. Heck, there were some rankings that had Ferris HIGHER ranked than Horton. That’s not a knock on Horton, mind you – his unique situation and super late, super hot rise probably made him harder to rank – but it’s just to give you a sense of how aggressive the Cubs got there at pick 47. You’ve got to believe he’s going to require above-slot money to sign.
Ferris is a physical beast for a high schooler, coming in at 6’4″ and around 200 lbs, with an intimidating delivery (more on that below):
Might he need to clean that up a bit? Yeah, sure. Of course. But for an 18-year-old lefty of that size, with that velocity? Yes. Take the chance and then get to work.
Ferris was ranked 19th overall by MLB Pipeline, and the fifth best pitcher in the entire draft:
Scouts have poured in to watch IMG Academy outfielder Elijah Green on a regular basis all spring, but they also tried to time it for whenever Ferris takes the mound. One of the best prep left-handers in this class, Ferris certainly made a name for himself last spring, when he outdueled eventual Phillies first-round pick Andrew Painter, then threw at a number of summer showcase events — including MLB’s High School All-American Game in Denver. He came out of the gate red-hot this spring and while he’s shown off his considerable upside, he’s been a touch more inconsistent as the season wore on. When everything is in sync and online, the 6-foot-4 Ferris can show off three pitches that have the chance to all be plus pitches. His fastball typically sits in the 92-95 mph range with good riding life and he has shown the ability to command the pitch well. He throws close to a true 12-to-6 curve in the mid-70s and has excellent feel for his mid-80s changeup with good fade. Tall and projectable, the Mississippi commit could have more in the tank as he matures, and he can already hold his stuff deep into outings. He does have a bit of an unorthodox delivery that can get out of whack occasionally, leading to some command issues, but he has No. 2-3 starter potential if it all comes together.
Prospects Live had Ferris up at 27:
Ferris has a long, yet relatively clean arm action and has plenty of projection on his frame to add strength and velocity. Primarily 93-95, Ferris has been up to 97 with a fastball that showcases huge riding life. His curveball has solid depth with big, tight spin in the mid-70’s and there is a change-up in the low-80’s that needs refinement. The fastball is the calling card here and it absolutely blows hitters away. Being a left-handed pitcher that can reach back for high-90s cheese, and given his 6-foot-5-inch frame, scouts are drooling over what the final package could look like here a few years down the road. Ferris was very good, not great in 2022, thus the slip to the back-half of the first round, but it’s hard to argue with the upside here.
At Baseball America, Ferris was ranked 34th overall, and you once again get the sense that the delivery can be seen as a blessing and a curse:
Originally a product of Mount Airy High in North Carolina, Ferris transferred to IMG Academy, where he wowed scouts during his junior season by posting a 0.55 ERA over 50.2 innings and striking out 86 batters compared to just 13 walks. He made significant velocity increases throughout his high school career, and over the 2021 showcase circuit was regularly around 93 mph and touching 96-97 mph at peak from the left side. On top of that fastball, Ferris has flashed multiple above-average secondaries: a mid-70s curveball with impressive depth and spin (2,400-2,600 rpm) and a mid-80s changeup that’s thrown with fastball arm speed. That loud stuff did come with some inconsistencies that scouts hadn’t previously seen from him as an underclassman, and throughout the 2022 spring he was largely the same pitcher—good pure stuff, but scattered and inconsistent command from outing to outing. Many scouts believe Ferris’ complicated, contorting delivery is simultaneously a boon for his deception and a burden for overall consistency. There’s tilt and drift during Ferris’ leg lift, with plenty of length and hooking action in the back of his arm slot, and then finally a crossfiring lower half in his landing. He’s not always on time with his release at foot strike and many in the industry believe he’ll need to clean up some of those moving parts to make the most out of his obvious arm talent. Ferris is committed to Mississippi but has plenty of interest among the top two rounds.
FanGraphs had Ferris ranked at 43 (though still among the top six high school pitchers in the draft):
Ferris’ combination of velocity (up to 96 mph), fastball carry, breaking ball snap, and frame give him tremendous upside. His feel for location is so raw that he has a little more relief risk than some of the high school pitchers ranked below him in the 2022 draft class, though sometimes guys with lanky frames like this gain control of their bodies later. Ferris has a powerful lower half, bending deep into his blocking leg. He also strides open, clearing his front side to help enable an extremely vertical arm slot. The combination of the two helps Ferris’ fastball have flatter angle than is usual for a pitcher this tall, with such a high arm slot. If he can live more consistently at the top of the strike zone as he matures, Ferris’ mid-90s fastball could dominate up there. The vertical slot helps him create depth on his breaking ball, and Ferris can turn over a changeup from that slot, albeit with a little variation. There are three potential impact pitches here, a ton of physical projection, and a delivery that some scouts see as the key to the whole operation, but that others think points toward the bullpen. He is a high school pitching prospect of extreme variance.
As for Keith Law, he had Ferris at 38:
Ferris benefited from playing on the same team as Elijah Green this spring, but he might get into the first round because he’s left-handed and sits 93-94, touching 97, with a potentially above-average curveball. Ferris is 6-4 and still projectable, listed at 190 pounds, and is very athletic. His arm is very quick, but it travels a long way from separation to release, with a plunge in the back that can make him late to pronate his arm relative to his landing. He also flies open sometimes, which leads to him missing a lot up and away, although he gets good extension out front. He’s succeeded this spring largely with his fastball, although the curveball has promise and he does have a mid-80s changeup with some tumble. He’s got above-average starter upside with a lot of volatility around the delivery.
Much more coming on the Cubs’ new big lefty pitching prospect.