I wish I had more time to cover this with more personality, but the press release will have to do for now…
The Chicago Cubs today named catcher Moises Ballesteros the Buck O’Neil Cubs Minor League Player of the Year and right-handed pitcher Cade Horton the Vedie Himsl Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Ballesteros, 19, hit .285 (120-for-421) with 27 doubles, 14 home runs and 64 RBI in 117 games across three levels with Single-A Myrtle Beach, High-A South Bend and Double-A Tennessee. The right-handed hitting catcher walked 63 times, compared to 78 strikeouts, contributing to a .375 OBP and an .823 OPS. Among Cubs minor leaguers with at least 400 at-bats, Ballesteros ranked among the leaders in average (2nd), walks (5th), OBP (5th) and OPS (7th).
The five-foot 11-inch Ballesteros played in 56 games with Myrtle Beach to begin the season, batting .274 (54-for-197) with 12 doubles, eight home runs and 32 RBI. He walked 40 times, compared to 30 strikeouts, contributing to a .394 OBP. In 17 games during the month of April, Ballesteros batted .300 (18-for-60) with one double, four home runs and 12 RBI. The catcher registered a .413 OBP and a .517 slugging percentage during the month.
Following his June 19 promotion, Ballesteros batted .301 (61-for-203) with 15 doubles, six home runs and 31 RBI in 56 games in South Bend, including .368 (25-for-68) with eight doubles, one home run and 10 RBI in July. His .368 average and .444 OBP in July both ranked second among Midwest League qualified players. Ballesteros capped off his season with a Southern League championship with Tennessee. In four games in the postseason, he batted .308 (4-for-13).
Ballesteros has played 228 career minor league games, batting .274 (214-for-781) with 49 doubles, 27 home runs, 122 RBI and an .813 OPS. A Los Teques, Venezuela native, Ballesteros signed with the Cubs as an international free agent January 15, 2021. He is currently ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Cubs’ No. 7 prospect.
Horton, 22, went 4-4 with a 2.65 ERA (26 ER/88.1 IP) in 21 starts between Myrtle Beach, South Bend and Tennessee during his first professional season in 2023. The righthander struck out 117 batters in 88.1 innings for an average of 11.92 strikeouts per 9.0 IP, compared to 27 walks (2.75 BB/9.0 IP). His 117 strikeouts were the second-most in the Cubs organization, while his 11.92 strikeouts per 9.0 IP also ranked second among starting pitchers with at least 20 starts.
The six-foot one-inch Horton began the campaign with the Pelicans, making four starts, pitching to a 1.26 ERA (2 ER/14.1 IP) with 21 strikeouts. He was promoted to South Bend May 6, where he made 11 starts, going 3-3 with a 3.83 ERA (20 ER/47.0 IP). In four starts in June, he went 3-0 with a 0.92 ERA (2 ER/19.2 IP) with 29 strikeouts, including a season-high 10-strikeout, no walk performance in 5.0 scoreless innings June 7 vs. Lansing.
Horton finished the 2023 season with Tennessee following his promotion July 31, going 1-1 with a 1.33 ERA (4 ER/27.0 IP) and 31 strikeouts in six regular season starts. He helped lead the Smokies to the Southern League championship, winning both of his postseason starts, including the championship-clinching game in Pensacola on September 26. He allowed one run in 10.0 innings (0.90 ERA) during the postseason run.
An Oklahoma City, Okla., native, Horton was selected by the Cubs in the first round (seventh overall) in 2022 out of the University of Oklahoma. The right-handed pitcher finished the 2023 season ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Cubs’ No. 2 prospect and MLB’s No. 29 prospect overall.
The Buck O’Neil Cubs Minor League Player of the Year Award
The Cubs Minor League Player of the Year Award is named after the legendary John “Buck” O’Neil, who spent 33 seasons (1956-88) in the Cubs organization as a scout, coach and instructor. A first baseman and manager for the Kansas City Monarchs, Buck managed Ernie Banks and Gene Baker when the two signed with the Cubs. As a scout for the organization, Buck signed future Hall of Famers Lou Brock and Lee Smith, as well as MLB veterans George Altman, Oscar Gamble and Joe Carter. As a mentor, O’Neil was instrumental in the development of Hall of Famer Billy Williams.
After several seasons as a minor league and spring training instructor, O’Neil was promoted to the Cubs major league coaching staff in 1962 to become the first African American coach in MLB history. A driving force behind the creation of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, O’Neil was a long-time chairman of the institution and was an advocate for inducting Negro League players into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 2006, O’Neil was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the United States’ highest civilian honor. Two years later, he was honored by the Hall of Fame with the creation of an award in his honor – the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award – an award to be given not more than once every three years to honor an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society, broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O’Neil. O’Neil was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July 2022.
The Vedie Himsl Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award
The Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award is named after A.B. “Vedie” Himsl, a former minor league pitcher whose time with the Cubs spanned 32 seasons through 1985. He joined the organization as a scout, and a year later in 1953 co-authored the final scouting report recommending the signing of Ernie Banks – the first African American to play for the Cubs. By the late 1950s, Himsl added roles as roving pitching instructor and minor league coordinator to his scouting duties.
Himsl joined the Cubs major league staff as pitching coach in 1960 and served as part of the College of Coaches system through the 1964 season. In 1961, Himsl was named the first Head Coach in MLB history, serving three stints in the role during the season. He also served as Head Coach for many of the team’s minor league affiliates during the College of Coaches era.
Himsl joined the front office in 1965 serving as the Assistant Director of Player Development and Procurement for four years. After a two-year stint as Director of MLB’s Central Scouting Bureau, he returned to the Cubs in 1971, and a year later was promoted to Director of Scouting, a position he held until retiring after the 1985 season. Himsl continued to consult with the Cubs on scouting matters for well over the next decade.