A Deeper Look at Jackson Ferris, the Highest High School Pitcher Selected by the Cubs Since 2005

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A Deeper Look at Jackson Ferris, the Highest High School Pitcher Selected by the Cubs Since 2005

Chicago Cubs

We wondered if the surprise of Cade Horton getting picked seventh in the Draft would allow the Cubs to splurge above-slot in the second round. And even while Horton might not come in significantly below slot, it sure seemed likely when the Cubs drafted southpaw Jackson Ferris in the second round out of the IMG Academy in Florida.

Ferris was considered by many to be a top-three prep pitcher in this class, particularly after seeing his fastball velocity spike on the showcase circuit last summer. I watched every bit of video that I could on Ferris, so let’s discuss the Cubs’ new high-ceiling arm.

Body/Delivery: After measuring at the Draft Combine, listed at an ideal 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds. Ferris matured into his body a lot at IMG, noticeably getting stronger in his legs and helping the bottom end of his velocity range stay consistent. There is still growth potential in the chest, shoulders and arms to help increase his top-end velocity.

The talk around Ferris revolves around a really unique delivery, which Prospects Live’s Joe Doyle even compared to a left-handed Tim Lincecum. Ferris features a high leg kick, and then leans his back/trunk backwards, likely in an effort to stay back as long as possible. This allows his hips to be the star (it’s actually pretty funny how different the Ferris and Horton deliveries are). Ferris really gets long extension with his front right leg, so the perceived velocity numbers will come in better than his raw velocity.

Ferris features a long arm action that will absolutely provide some deception. After his hands break, Ferris brings his arm behind his body, curling his wrist behind him and allowing it to fire forward only after his leg block. He releases from a 7/8 arm slot (occasionally dropping down to 3/4) with a bit of wildness in his head, ultimately falling off towards third base.

I actually don’t anticipate the Cubs will initially play with the delivery much, as what’s comfortable to Ferris is also part of why he’s successful. If strike-throwing becomes a pronounced problem, you’d look to have the body work more linear to home plate, and perhaps shorten the arm action.

Fastball: Ferris has peaked at about 96 mph as an amateur, and successfully stayed above 90 mph most of the spring. I think he’ll initially pitch as a professional in the 92-95 range. His fastball (when combined with the deception in his delivery) was enough on most days in high school, and it’s a foundational bread-and-butter offering. Ferris prefers a sinker that’s somewhere between a two- and one-seam fastball, though I do anticipate the Cubs will prefer his usage be more focused on the four-seamer that shows plus late life. The horizontal difference between sinker and four seamer should allow them to play as distinct offerings.

Fastball control is presently below average, and will be the most important factor in Ferris’ prospect evaluations during his first professional year.

Secondaries: Dan Kantrovitz praised Ferris’ willingness to throw all four pitches at IMG, and Jackson has talked about how adding a slider was one of his big developments in his senior season. The pitch is a simple variation of his curveball thrown with a bit more downward intent, and you’ll see him get to about 79-81 mph with the pitch. I think the Cubs see the slider not for what it is now, but view the foundation to become a legitimate sweeper in time.

The curveball was there first, and I think the two offerings are sometimes indistinguishable (you’ll actually see the slider rarely mentioned in scouting reports, though it became the preferred breaking ball in 2022). The curve settled in about 73-77 mph as Ferris tried to not allow it to bleed into the slider, and he’s comfortable with it. Expect the Cubs to change at least one of his curveball/slider grips, if not both, but the ability for spin (and pitch development) gives them confidence.

Ferris also showed scouts a willingness to embrace a changeup, and he pronates well enough to believe the pitch can get there. It’s currently a pretty firm two-seam circle change, designed to play off the sinker, but we’ll see what becomes of it.

Development Plan: Things are going to be nice and slow. Once he signs (and I’d guess we’re looking at a $2.5M above-slot price tag), Ferris will head to Arizona, where he’s likely to be until October. My guess is Ferris will pitch in a handful of ACL games, and the Cubs probably won’t begin to tinker with his pitches until post-season instructs.

I would expect Ferris begins next year, assuming good health, in Extended Spring Training before debuting in Myrtle Beach about 4-8 weeks into the season. The Cubs will allow Ferris to move as slow as his development needs; everyone recognizes this is a project that will take time.

I’d currently have Jackson Ferris as the Cubs’ number 12 prospect, but if he reaches the top three some day, it will not surprise anyone.

Author: Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.