The Comebackers- 2022

Updated: Jan 18

When there are no real baseball transactions due to the lockout, baseball fans will find a way to fill the gap with their beloved game. This was one that consumed me this weekend.


This started with an article about Lane Thomas on the Nationals by Anthony Franco on the MLB Trade rumors site. Specifically,


"He spent the bulk of that time in center field, playing well enough to supplant former top prospect Víctor Robles on the depth chart"


I thought what about Victor Robles. The Astros might benefit from getting Victor Robles to compete with the other CFs. This led me down a deep rabbit hole.


What was Victor Robles's WAR in 2021? -0.5

What is Victor Robles's WAR projected to be in 2022? 0.7 (only 338 PA)

What would it take to trade for Victor Robles? According to https://www.baseballtradevalues.com/trade-simulator/ his trade value is ZERO (He is easily available)

and finally

How many other Victor Robleses are there? I was deep in the rabbit hole with that question.


There, I created a challenge for myself.


What is the the best team I could build from a PREDICTED WAR in 2022 standpoint given only the population of negative to only slightly positive WAR players in 2021?


I further restricted myself away from high value prospects like Jerred Kelinic who would be impossible to trade for with limited resources. The thought here is if I find several of these players, they may be below the radar targets for the Astros to get.


To summarize here are the restrictions

- hitters max 0.3 WAR in 2021 (minimum 300 PA)

- pitchers max 0.6 WAR in 2021 (minimum 100 IP for SP and 40 IP for RP)

- trade value less than 2.5 (few exceptions)


We are not really looking for prospects that have not hit it big yet. We are looking for players that maybe have never been good yet or were good and they weren't in 2021 BUT there is a reason to think they MIGHT be in 2022. What we are looking for in this are the players that are the best candidates to be comeback players of the year. These would have been players one could of added to the Astros after the 2013 season to make the 2014 Astros even better. If we find one or two for the 2022 Astros, the whole exercise will be a success.


I did NOT restrict myself financially per se in this exercise. The CBT payroll would be about $170M. Eight of the players are free agents. A couple of them make significant money but that is why their trade value is so low, You might brainstorm others to consider. Add any suggestions in the forum and lets talk about them.


Disclaimer- I intentionally made this hard on myself. I generally asked "Could I even get that player? Is that someone worth the risk?" Some of these players have been awful and your first response will be hell no I would never want that player on my team. That is why they are on this comeback team- The Comebackers.


Disclaimer 2- I will use a massive number of trades to build this roster. The prospects in these deals are not absolute; they are meant to illustrate what is possible if one can believe the trade simulator values. Most of the prospects are flipped to make other deals. If you don't want to know all of the details, skip that section. If you want to understand how it is even possible to form a viable team with only some cash, then that section will fascinate you.


Ok, enough of the intro. Meet your MLB Comebackers!


Position Players


The Comebackers position players are full of familiar names- Players you have likely written off or think are mediocre at best. Some like Bellinger had AWFUL years last year, but that is why his trade value- one- is so low. Cody Bellinger will likely be the MVP of the 2022 Comebackers with a playing time allocation adjusted WAR of 3.3.


In the table I have listed the basics for each player, and

  • his 2021 WAR (did I say this team was AWFUL in 2021?),

  • the Steamer prediction for his 2022 WAR,

  • the Trade Simulators trade value,

  • the AAV the player is assigned in 2022 or an estimate of what it will take to sign him as a Free Agent,

  • when the player will be a FA (options included)

  • the players 2021 plate appearances

  • the Steamer 2022 projected PA

  • the 2022 projected wRC+ (this team is not so bad in 2022- team wRC+ 96)

  • the batting order I would use

The last three columns allocate the playing time for this team and calculate a PT adjusted projected WAR


Some other highlights

  • There are 16 players listed. These are envisioned to be the core team since the Comebackers don't really have MLB ready prospects.

  • The last three still have an option and would start the year in AAA. Overall playing time is allocated, so that whoever is going to step up will be given a chance. Injuries will likely allow the three starting in AAA PT.

  • Position flexibility is valued on the Comebackers

  • Bellinger, Robles, and Profar can play all OF spots

  • VanMeter, Profar, Gonzalez, Dozier, and Bote can fill in multiple IF roles

  • The overall age of the position players is not old or young but just right for many of them to have career years

The overall WAR of the position players goes from negative 5.1 to 17. This is a HUGE swing.


But 17 WAR would have been 19th in the MLB in 2021 and would project as the 26th best projection in 2022. It is still a pretty bad core of hitters.


After his 3.3 WAR performance in 2022, and his trade value swinging to 15+, Larry The GM would trade Bellinger and anyone else that has a career year and the Comebackers will repeat the process next off-season.



The Pitchers



The analysis for the pitchers almost mirrors the position players.


The Comebackers pitchers are full of familiar names too- Pitchers you have likely written off or think are mediocre at best. Some like Corbin had AWFUL years last year, but that is why his trade value- NEGATIVE 62,3- is so low. Patrick Corbin will likely be the Cy Young of the 2022 Comebackers with a playing time allocation adjusted WAR of 2.4.


In the table I have listed the basics for each player, and

  • his 2021 WAR (did I say this team was AWFUL in 2021?),

  • the Steamer prediction for his 2022 WAR,

  • the Trade Simulators trade value,

  • the AAV the player is assigned in 2022 or an estimate of what it will take to sign him as a Free Agent,

  • when the player will be a FA (options included)

  • the players 2021 innings pitched

  • the Steamer 2022 projected IP

  • the 2022 projected FIP (this team is not so bad in 2022- team FIP 4.46 (league average 4.27 FIP)

The last three columns allocate the playing time for this team and calculate a PT adjusted projected WAR


Some other highlights

  • There are 16 players listed. These are envisioned to be the core team.

  • The three listed still have an option and would start the year in AAA. Overall playing time is allocated, so that whoever is going to step up will be given a chance.

  • As shown in the transaction details Luis Frias is a prospect that comes in the deals and is MLB ready. PT is allocated to him assuming injuries like the other two assigned to AAA.

  • Position flexibility is valued on the Comebackers

  • Hearn, Thompson, and Frias can both start and come out of the bullpen.

  • many of the RP are capable of closing games

  • there is a strong mix of LHP and RHP which will further emphasize matchups and not set roles.

  • The overall age of the pitchers is not old or young but just right for many of them to have career years

The overall WAR of the pitchers goes from negative 1.2 to 11.9. This is a HUGE swing.


But 11.9 WAR would have been 22th in the MLB in 2021 and would project as the 26th best projection in 2022. It is still a pretty bad core of pitchers.


After his 2.4 WAR performance in 2022, and his trade value swinging to 20+, Larry The GM would trade Corbin and anyone else that has a career year and the Comebackers will repeat the process next off-season.


Overall Team

Overall, the team would have 28.9 WAR which would project as the 17th best. That would project around a 76-86 record. The payroll on this team would be the 11th highest. So, one could argue that is not a very good return on the investment.


Given the parameters of this challenge, I think I did pretty good. This was a team that delivered negative 6.3 WAR in 2021. That would project to around a 42-120 record.


The 2013 Astros went 51-111 and 70-92 in 2014.


The 2021 Comeback roster would have theoretically go from 42-120 to 76-86 in 2022.


That sounds pretty good.


How did I do it? How did I build the 2022 Comebackers?


So what do you all think?

A roster risen from the ashes with only a checkbook.

A team projected to to win about 76 games in 2022.

A fairly bloated payroll given the results.

A handful of prospects to step in and fill gaps or to trade.


I think my owner would be pretty happy.


So what players on the Comebackers could I see as possibilities for the 2022 Astros?

- Andrelton Simmons is a better option at SS than I thought.

- Several of the RP are options but Diekman is probably the best option for the 2022 Astros

- Keegan Thompson is an interesting possible under the radar trade option if the Cubs would listen.


I also wrote about the most overrated and underrated position players here.


Lets talk about it in the Forums. Give me your suggestions for the Comebackers.


If you liked this article or any of the others here, you really should subscribe to LarryTheGM.com (Below the header and above the articles). You will get notified of new content and you can use the chat feature. The offseason is some of the best time for the content I will bring at LarryTheGM.com.


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Warning: this appendix ix too much detail for many of you. It is meant to answer those that would say there is no way you could build this team.



Appendix: Building the 2022 Comebackers


The details of this will likely make you dizzy. It does me.


The Free Agents

Andrelton Simmons, SS, $9.00M AAV (Viable as an add for the Astros as a back-up plan)

Jorge Soler, DH, $9.00M AAV

Jake Diekman, SURP, $8.00M AAV

Drew Smyly, SP, $5.00M AAV

Mike Foltynewicz, SP, $5.00M AAV

Zach Davies, SP, $5.00M AAV

Alex Dickerson, LF, $3.00M AAV

Marwin Gonzalez, 2B/IF/LF, $1.00M AAV


That is a total of $45M AAV spent on Free Agents


The Trades


We start with a $20M dollar checkbook for trades


The was this will work is that a few of the players acquired have HUGE negative trade values. This is why the resulting team is so expensive to the results. With these trades the Comebackers will get additional prospects with trade value.


For each of the Trades the players will be listed like this

Black font- players being traded to the Comebackers

Grey cell- players being traded to the Comebackers and then being sent somewhere else

Black underlined font- Prospects traded to the Comebackers and remaining with Comebackers

Red font- the Cash and or players the Comebackers will trade to the other team


For this exercise, I assume we have no one and we can't trade the FA we just signed. All I have is $20M initially.


Step 1- Cash for negative Trade Value players and prospects

The Patrick Corbin trade is the key. Would the Nationals do this deal and give the Comebackers an actual top four team prospect in Brady House. Do they WANT to keep Corbin. The Nationals were not very active in November. Larry The GM giver them an opportunity to dump the salary but makes them pay. Three key prospects come to the Comebackers. I becomes the #1 prospect in the system and the other two are key for the other trades. I write a $5M check to make them feel better for helping me start my team.


Similarly, I go to the Royals and get Hunter Dozier and get a key prospect for trades and one to keep.


Next on my trades, i do the unthinkable and take Profar as a multi-position OF/IF and get San Diego to give me a few other guys I would want.


Also, I go to the Angels and see if they are willing to trade Fletcher.


The Arizona deal I show is another deal for some IF help. I also get two prospects to start building a system.


The Miami deal helps with a veteran to the bullpen and a prospect to trade.


The Cubs trade me a bench utility man, a long reliever and spot starter and prospect to trade.


Why would these teams do these deals? Every MLB player in these deals was terrible in 2021.


Step 2- Prospects for Roster players

These deals are the more traditional prospects for MLB player talent.


JT Brubaker has the highest Trade Value of any of the players scheduled to play for the Comebackers.


A prospect nets the Comebackers a starting first baseman from the Brewers.


Another prospect goes to the Phillies for a potential closer.


The Mariners send a fairly high level prospect for a starter and a prospect.


Lastly, the Dodgers dump Cody Belinger and his $16M salary and two prospects for another one of the prospects in the first set of deals.


Step 3- Finish the roster

Two final deals involving prospects received in the Step 2 deals finish the roster for the Comebackers.




This is what it took to pull together the roster the roster together. After all of these deals the Comebackers have a few top prospects.

So what do you all think?

A roster risen from the ashes with only a checkbook.

A team projected to to win about 76 games in 2022.

A fairly bloated payroll given the results.

A handful of prospects to step in and fill gaps or to trade.


I think my owner would be pretty happy.


So what players on the Comebackers could I see as possibilities for the 2022 Astros?

- Andrelton Simmons is a better option at SS than I thought.

- Several of the RP are options but Diekman is probably the best option for the 2022 Astros

- Keegan Thompson is an interesting possible under the radar trade option if the Cubs would listen.


Data from Fangraphs.com, BaseballAmerica.com, MLB Pipeline, and baseballtradevalues.com.


Check out all of the Content here at LarryTheGM. Before leaving, check out the Astros Article Index for all of the Astros articles in an easy to use index.


If you liked this article or any of the others here, you really should subscribe to LarryTheGM.com (Below the header and above the articles). You will get notified of new content and you can use the chat feature. The offseason is some of the best time for the content I will bring at LarryTheGM.com.

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