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On the Gonzalez signing: What is the real value of a 2nd round draft pick?

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When the Orioles signed Type-A free agent Mike Gonzalez to a two-year, $12M contract on Wednesday, one of the major concerns of many was the loss of the Orioles 2nd round draft pick in 2010. My first inclination was to agree, but after thinking about it for awhile I realized I had no idea the actual value of a second round draft pick. What is the likelihood of a 2nd round draft pick not only reaching the majors but having a significant impact? How does a team leverage that against the value they can get from the free agent, in this case "just" a relief pitcher (albeit one with a very good track record)?

To find some answers, I did what I usually do: I went to Baseball Reference. Using their draft section, I looked at every 2nd round draft pick from 1985 to 2001. I'd planned on using 20 years of data but frankly, once I got to 17 it seemed that I had enough (read: I was tired of looking at it). 

From 1985 to 2001 there were 506 second round draft picks. Of those, 262 (51.78%) never saw a day in the MLB. Of the remaining 244, 14 didn't sign but were re-drafted in the future and eventually made it to the MLB. That leaves 230 (45.45%) of the draftees who signed and eventually had an appearance in the MLB. 

45% is a decent chance, but that includes players who possibly spent just 1 day on a big league team. When all players who played less than 100 games are removed, the total drops to just 22.92%, 49 pitchers and 67 position players. The list includes a few great players (Randy Johnson) and a number of solid players (Carlos Beltran), but also plenty of the Freddie Bynum variety. 

So at what point is the trade-off worth it? Is it ever worth it for a relief pitcher? And if the Orioles aren't intended to compete in 2010, does it even matter? The argument could be made that a 2nd round draft pick with even just a 23% chance of making 100 major league appearances is more beneficial to the future of this team than a reliever who might be gone after 2011.

I'm not sure I buy that, though. If 2011 is indeed the year that the Orioles are supposed to make their big move into the pennant race, winning in 2010 is important as well. It's important for the young players who are developing, it's important when trying to land free agents, it's important to show the players that 2010 isn't another year to roll over. Opponents of this thought process will counter with the fact that adding Gonzalez might get the Orioles a few wins, but that's it. And what good will that do? 

I think it all comes down to philosophy. The Gonzalez signing and the Millwood trade are, to me, a sign of a different Andy MacPhail. With phase one over, this is how he is tackling phase two. He decided that the benefits of Mike Gonzalez outweigh the potential of next year's 2nd round draft pick. And given the numbers, I can see his point. 

Players drafted in the 2nd round, 1985-2001, with at least 100 games played

Player Years Played Total Games Career OPS+
Player Years Played Total Games Career ERA+
Tim Jones (INF) 1988-1993 252 68
Bruce Ruffin 1986-1997 469 98
Kirt Manwaring (C) 1987-1999 1008 69
Mike Schooler 1988-1992 260 136
Milt Cuyler (OF) 1990-1996, 1998 490 71
Randy Johnson 1988-2009 618 136
Dave Hansen (SS) 1990-2005 1230 99
Dave Otto 1987-1994 109 80
Todd Zeile (C/3B) 1989-2004 2158 103
Kevin Wickander  1989-1996 150 108
Todd Hundley (C) 1990-2003 1225 102
Roger Pavlik 1992-1998 131 103
Terry Shumpert (2B) 1990-2003 854 80
Erik Hanson 1988-1998 245 105
Albert Belle (OF) 1989-2000 1539 143
Kevin Tapani 1989-2001 139 99
Derek Bell (OF) 1991-2001 1210 99
Jeff Tabaka 1994-1998, 2001 130 96
Jeff Branson (SS) 1992-1998, 2000-2001 694 77
Dave Burba  1990-2004 511 99
Bob Hamelin (1B) 1993-1998 497 109
Richie Lewis 1992-1998 217 93
Dave Silvestri (SS) 1992-1999 181 65
Jeremy Hernandez  1991-1995 133 114
Scott Livingstone (3B) 1991-1998 673 86
Eric Grunderson  1990-92, 94-00 254 93
Brian Hunter (OF) 1994-2003 1000 72
Pete Schourek 1991-2001 288 91
Clay Belllinger (SS) 1999-2002 183 57
Arthur Rhodes 1991-2009 780 107
Andy Fox (3B) 1996-2004 776 73
Joe Slusarski 1991-93, 95, 99-01 118 81
Darrell Whitmore (OF) 1993-1995 112 44
Chris Nabholz 1990-1995 141 97
Jayhawk Owens (C) 1993-1996 130 73
Joe Grahe 1990-1995, 1999 187 100
Aaron Ledesma (SS) 1995, 1997-2000 283 81
Frank Rodriguez  1995-2001 184 88
Tim Hyers (1B) 1994-1996, 2000 133 55
Bob Wickman 1992-2007 835 125
Kevin Stocker (SS) 1994-1996, 1999-2004 846 79
Chris Haney 1991-2002 196 108
Herb Perry (3B) 1994-1996, 1999-2004 529 96
Bill Pulsipher 1995, 98-01, 05 106 63
Terrell Lowery (OF) 1997-2000 123 99
Mike Matthews 2000-2005 230 92
Bobby Hughes (C) 1998-1999 133 75
Jon Lieber 1994-2008 401 103
Jason Giambi (1B) 1995-2009 1952 143
Tim Crabtree 1995-2001 342 116
Brian Banks (C) 1996-1998, 2002-2003 273 83
Jeff Suppan 1995-2009 412 98
Scott Rolen (3B) 1996-2009 1748 124
Jay Witasick 1996-2007 405 97
Chris Singelton (OF) 1999-2003, 2005 704 87
Scott Sullivan 1995-2004 558 113
Greg Norton (3B) 1996-2009 1107 93
Bryan Rekar 1995-2002 131 87
Brad Fullmer (3B) 1997-2004 807 111
Jarrod Washburn 1998-2009 312 109
Mike Darr (OF) 1999-2001 188 93
Brett Tomko 1997-2009 389 92
George Lombard (OF) 1998-00, 2002-03, 06 144 68
Buddy Carlyle 1999-00, 05, 07-09 104 76
Mark Bellhorn (SS) 1997-2007 731 92
Randy Wolf 1999-2009 279 103
Ben Petrick (C) 1999-2003 240 88
Scott Linebrink 2000-2009 491 122
Marlon Anderson (2B) 1998-2009 1151 83
Tyler Walker 2002, 2004-09 262 101
Craig Wilson (C) 2001-2007 698 113
Chad Harville 1999, 01, 03-06 175 85
Carlos Beltran (OF) 1998-2009 1562 119
Aaron Cook 2002-2009 197 111
Sean Casey (1B) 1997-2008 1405 109
Matt Belisle 2003, 2005-2009 156 89
Henry Mateo (SS) 2001-2006 190 50
Gary Majewski 2004-2008 229 93
Jacque Jones (OF) 1999-2008 1302 98
John Lackey 2002-2009 234 117
Milton Bradley (OF) 2000-2009 941 115
Jack Taschner 2005-2009 202 88
Mike Caruso (SS) 1998-1999, 2002 281 66
Brian Tallet 2002-03, 2005-09 189 102
Brent Abernathy (SS) 2001-2003, 2005 232 67
Joel Hanrahan 2007-2009 148 89
Jimmy Rollins (SS) 2000-2009 1406 97
Manny Delcarmen 2005-2009 241 125
Josh Paul (OF) 1999-2007 321 68
Chad Qualls 2004-2009 241 125
Michael Restovich (OF) 2002-2007 152 79
Andrew Sisco 2005-2007 151 88
Rick Ankiel (OF) 1999-01, 2002, 07-09 342 98
Brandon League 2004-2009 168 108
Jason Grabowski (C) 2002-2005 190 62
Neal Cotts 2003-2009 284 100
Gerald Laird (C) 2003-2009 509 75
Danny Haren 2003-2009 196 123
Adam Dunn (OF) 2001-2009 1290 132




Brandon Inge (C) 2001-2009 1153 84




Jody Gerut (OF) 2003-2005, 2008-2009 542 105




Chris Magruder (OF) 2001-2005 270 66




Carl Crawford (OF) 2002-2009 1081 103




Rob Bowen (C) 2003-2004, 2006-2008 216 71




Brandon Phillips (2B) 2002-2009 736 90




Ryan Doumit (C) 2005-2009 410 104




Ryan Ludwick (OF) 2002-2009 515 117




Ben Broussard (1B) 2002-2008 705 105




Bobby Hill (2B) 2002-2005 249 83




Xavier Nady (OF) 2000, 2003-2009 679 108




Freddie Bynum (SS) 2005-2008 188 68




Lance Niekro (3B) 2003, 2005-2007 194 81




Kelly Shoppach (C) 2005-2009 571 95




J.J. Hardy (SS) 2005-2009 571 95




Dallas McPherson (3B) 2004-2006, 2008 128 102