The Value Of Justin Upton Versus A Compensatory Draft Pick

While I'm still not actually convinced the White Sox will make a major free agent signing this winter -- spending big money in the free agent market just isn't their bag -- until we know for a fact that they won't, it's still fun to dream.

And it's fun to debate as well.

The big debate so far has been Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes. Those who believe Upton is the better option will point to his younger age, and the fact there's still room to grow. Those who prefer Cespedes will point out he's more of a "sure thing," and that there's no draft pick compensation involved.

Which seems to be the biggest blow against Upton. Since the Padres offered Upton a qualifying offer, and he rejected it, any team that signs him -- aside from the Padres, of course -- would have to sacrifice a first round pick. The White Sox, however, have the 10th pick in next summer's draft, and the top 10 picks are protected.

That means the Sox would have to give up their next pick, which right now is the 27th pick in the draft. It's a compensatory pick they received when Jeff Samardzija signed with the Giants.

So the question we need to answer when it comes to Upton, is just how valuable of a pick the Sox will be giving up.

History suggests it's not worth much.

Yes, the White Sox have a thin farm system, and have had one for a while. As a result, many Sox fans tend to overvalue the draft right now, which I understand. That's why losing a draft pick seems like a bad idea, but let's look at how 27th picks in the draft have performed.

We'll go back to 1965, and look at every 27th pick in the MLB Draft. There have been 51 players chosen in that slot since then, and combined they've all been worth a combined 116.7 bWAR. That's 4.3 bWAR per player, but that doesn't tell the whole story.

A whopping 45.5 bWAR of that total comes courtesy of Vida Blue, whom the Oakland Athletics took with the 27th pick (second round then) of the 1967 draft. Remove Blue from the equation, and that bWAR total drops to 71.2 bWAR between 50 players. Or 1.4 bWAR per player.

Of those remaining 50 players, only six were worth a total of 5.0 bWAR in their Major League careers (24 of them never played/haven't played in the big leagues). Those players were Pete Harnisch (18.2), Rick Porcello (11.2), Todd Jones (10.9), Tom Underwood (10.5), Mike Fetters (8.1), and Jay Tibbs (5.0).

What you may have noticed of all these names is they were all pitchers. The highest rated position player drafted 27th was...

Sergio Santos. Who was drafted as a shortstop by the Diamondbacks but earned all his bWAR as a relief pitcher for the White Sox and Blue Jays.

The highest rated position player by bWAR to be drafted 27th is Nick Franklin, whom the Mariners took in 2009 and hasn't done much of anything in MLB, compiling 1.1 bWAR in parts of three seasons.

Now let's compare this to Justin Upton, who was worth 4.4 bWAR last year alone, and has been worth 24.7 bWAR in nine seasons.

So when comparing the production you'd likely be getting from Justin Upton against the production the White Sox could reasonably expect from that 27th pick, I don't think there's much left to debate.

Justin Upton is worth a lot more than that draft pick.


  1. Great article as usual. I think there's a logical error, though. It's not just the 27th pick to compare to but anyone picked from 27 on, because all those guys would have been available. One that comes to mind is Mark Buehrle. Still, it's fun to speculate.

  2. I think they need to do something else this offseason. The Lawrie signing was excellent, and so was the haul of 3 catchers(finally!), but not enough to make me think we are going to win the division. I will take Upton, and Cespedes.... I will take them all!


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