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Cubs Notes: Law top 50, the Baez makeup question, and do the Cubs really have a crowd...yet?

Cubs Notes: Law top 50, the Baez makeup question, and do the Cubs really have a crowd...yet?

All Cubs talk is prospect talk these days.   Even the trade deadline focuses on making roster space for current prospects for this year and beyond.  Let's round up some of that talk and chime in with our own thoughts...

The Keith Law Top 50 and the Javy Baez makeup question

Kris Bryant tops Law's Top 50 while new acquisition Addison Russell ranks #4.  Considering we are talking about Bryant, Byron Buxton, and Carlos Correa at the top, that is some really high praise.  He is ahead of fellow shortstop Francisco Lindor and organization mate Javier Baez, who ranks at #8.

Curiously, Law brings up the Baez makeup questions again and I can only say that I have not heard the same concerns when talking with teammates and scouts.

Nobody thinks Baez is a choir boy but nobody I talked to questioned his work ethic, his relationship with his teammates, his drive to become a better player, or his aptitude for the game.

I even talked to one scout who was more than willing to talk about these things and even gave me 3 players on whom he had makeup questions (one was with a different organization, another is no longer with the Cubs organization, and a 3rd was one where he had mild concerns but they appear to have subsided now), but when we switched the conversation to Baez, the issue never came up.

Again, I am not saying Law didn't hear something, I am just saying I haven't heard it in my own conversations.  And makeup can be a pretty subjective thing,  Jason McLeod admitted to having some questions from outside the organization, but has had no concerns now that he has had a chance to see Baez up close.  McLeod has said he underestimated Baez's drive to succeed and become a major league player.

"What we probably underestimated a little bit was how much Javy loves to play the game, and how much he loves to compete. In the end, we simply missed on him. We wouldn’t have taken Javy had he fallen to our pick. Thankfully the Cubs did.”

He also said this to Patrick Mooney of CSN,

“He wanted to come in and show like: ‘OK, that might be the plan. I’m fine with it. But I’m going to show you guys just how serious I’m taking this.’

“He’s done that. He’s played very well up here in major-league camp. I’ve been really happy seeing how he is interacting with his teammates and (becoming) much more comfortable dealing with them and dealing with questions from the media. He’s been great. That’s been really a joy for us to see.”

Brandon Hyde also had praise for the young shortstop,

“His mindset’s different,” Hyde said. “I think he realizes how close he is. He is playing with a lot more confidence than he did last spring and with more determination. (He’s) a pro now. He understands what it takes.”

Both of those statements hint at improvement, so perhaps there was some level of concern in the past.  But if those problems have resurfaced, it certainly doesn't appear that way based on what his manager and teammate are saying about him or how much work he has put in to get better, as you can read here.

Lastly, here is what one of Baez's former teammates had to say about him,

"In my opinion he is a natural born leader. He shows that on and off the field. I can't speak for others but... I loved watching him go about his work. He is a guy that understands what needs to be done and does just that. I cannot think of one negative thing to say about him."

Again,  I'm not saying Law doesn't have info which led him to make this opinion, but there seems to be a lot of information out there that contradicts that opinion too.

The Madness of Crowded Infields

Jeff Sullivan wrote a piece in Fangraphs that addresses the Cubs sudden crowd in the infield, particularly at shortstop.  There is no crowd yet, opines Sullivan, until these players move up the ladder, succeed, and make it a crowed,  Until then Sullivan writes,

At the moment, though, it’s a crowd that doesn’t exist. It’s a crowd that exists only in theory, in some possible future out of infinite possible futures, and therefore the Cubs aren’t facing any kind of urgency.

We got the impression the Cubs feel the same way when we heard through a source that the Cubs asking price for Starlin Castro was basically this: "Make your best offer and we'll get back to you and let you know if we think it's good enough."

That certainly doesn't seem to convey any sense of urgency to deal.  It's a way of them saying "serious inquiries only", but so far nobody has taken the Cubs up on that challenge.  This means that teams A) were trying to buy low thinking the Cubs wanted to relieve a perceived logjam and/or B) they have some idea that the Cubs asking price is going to be extraordinarily high.  Probably prohibitively high.  In other words, it's a way of saying no without actually having to use the word.

With regard to A, the sense that the Cubs would want to make a deal early stems from the idea that they would like to so before the players have to move off of shortstop and possibly lose value.  JD Sussman thinks that this isn't necessarily so,

Positional adjustments will be important to determine whether the Cubs can get more value in a trade for one of their infielders than the value they would get from one’s performance boost at a lesser position. However, the notion that, shifting these talents down the defensive spectrum hurts their value to the Cubs isn’t beyond reproach. With the amount of infield talent the Cubs have, another trade is expected, but hardly necessary.

We ourselves talked about the possibility of moving the players around, perhaps Russell to 3B and Baez to 2B.  Or perhaps you keep Russell at SS and you ask Castro to move.  Whatever the case, the Cubs have 3 players who can not only play those positions defensively, but have enough bat to carry those positions on offense as well.  And having 3/4 of your infield made up of shortstops who can hit is by no means a bad thing.

Sullivan wraps it up nicely here,

So the Cubs should be more than content to sit back and see where these talented players go. They don’t need to rush to diversify, because they don’t have too much of the same things. They might eventually have too much of the same things, but that’s not the same dilemma, and in fact it’s not a dilemma at all. If anything, it’s a blessing. You don’t draft for need because you don’t know what your needs will be by the time the draft pick is ready. And you don’t preemptively make a point of trading from system depth, because system depth and actual depth are two distinctly different things.

I think we should be careful not to get ahead of ourselves here.  There is too little (and sometimes conflicting) information to be basing decisions and making big trades at this point in time.

When you have multiple athletic prospects who can move around and are still not quite ready for the majors, you have the luxury of time and flexibility. The Cubs should use that for as long as they possibly can -- or until some team compensates them heavily enough that they are willing to give up that luxury.

But don't hold your breath there.  Just enjoy the ride with this amazing group of prospects and let things shake out.   If they do all become on the verge of transitioning to an amazing group of players, then the Cubs can deal with it at that point.

 

 

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  • Law is a clown

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I think he has some info that causes him to keep saying it. But I think that he might be perpetuating info just because he happened to hear it.

    I have heard makeup questions about another player on his list, who I will not name, but I will say the source is excellent.

    Yet nothing mentioned there. I think it's kind of dangerous to throw out labels with incomplete information.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It seems, of all the national prospect evaluators, Law is the one who is most likely to get preconceived notions about a prospect and to let those stick.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Personally, I'm becoming more impressed with Baez's makeup. He isn't a choir boy but who's to say that's a bad thing? One or two of those is good to have but you certainly don't need an entire team of them.

    Best I can tell, Baez has a tremendous desire to succeed and I think it's shown the last two years when he's made adjustments against better and better pitching.

  • In reply to JasonB:

    Boston had a whole team of idiots and animals but they could all play and they knew how to win . Ill take edgy anyday of the week as those type of players seem to weather the tough times better than the choir boy types who want to please everyone else so bad that a little failure destroys them. Baseball and life.

  • Kinda off topic, but do we know if the Cubs are done signing draft picks? Any word on guys like Isiah Gilliam?

  • In reply to Cubkatz06:

    Also, love reading your articles and minor league briefs everyday!

  • In reply to Cubkatz06:

    Thank you.

  • In reply to Cubkatz06:

    Gilliam won't sign. They may be done. Possibly one more, like Depperman, a RHP.

  • In reply to Cubkatz06:

    Gilliam would have to sign for $100,015 and change. I highly doubt that that will happen.

  • A prospect is not a major league ballplayer. So many of them flash out that it isn't funny, and the Cubs have had their share, probably more than their share, of those. A kid comes up as temporary weekend replacement, has a 4 hit game in his second game, and people all over the place are penciling him into the starting line-up for opening day next year. Cripes, the kid had a good game, but he's still not a major league player for sure. Yes, I'm talking about Alcantara, but a year ago I could have been talking about Junior Lake. The same thing happened, and then the holes in his game started to get exposed. I think everybody just needs to calm down about prospects. They're prospects, and some of them won't make it. Some of them might get traded and make it with some other team (Lou Brock is a classic example), because even our front office isn't perfect. They're going to miss a few just like the players do. Keep calm, everyone. It's a marathon.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    It's not quite as simple as comparing Alcantara to Lake. Lake wasn't even a top 10 Cubs prospect, while Alcantara is a top 30 prospect in all of baseball. None of the writers here said that Lake would be anything more than a 4th OF on a competing team. I'm sure Alcantara will struggle at some point and some of the prospects won't pan out, but it is not as simple as saying "prospects are prospects."

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    I agree to some extent, but how high were Lake or Pie or Patterson ever ranked? It is super exciting to have three of the highest ranked prospects and that doesn't even include Soler, who looks like may beat Bryant, Baez, and Russell to the show, even if only because he's already on the roster and has a longterm deal. On the other hand, I often get so sucked into this prospect info and progress reports that I often forget that in many ways its really meaningless until they're doing for the Chicago Cubs.

    As an aside, it's interesting that this group acknowledges that they'd have passed on Javy if he had fallen to them in the draft -- just like they passed on Addison Russell in favor of Almora. We need an occasional reminder that they're not perfect, as in for example, they're stubborn refusal to promote Bryant NOW. (Just kidding).

  • In reply to TTP:

    It is crazy how prospects have gone from a fun diversion and into THE story.

    I try to stay out of the hype, especially recaps where I try to cover everyone, not just the stars.

    I love prospects, but they are part of the equation, a big part maybe, but just one part.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, as you know, I admittedly am sometimes a contrarian here. That's only because I am such a bleed Cubbie-Blue-Die-Hard-Fan, who watches every game and live and dies with every pitch every at bat, who always pull for them to win no matter what draft position be damned, who gets down and sometimes angry when they lose and, well you get it. So I just want to get the Rebuild Promise Land as soon as reasonably possible and not a second later.

    And that's also why I'm addicted to this site. What you do here, what you have created here is so AWESOME. Cubs Den is an incredibly detailed, amazing informative and totally unique window into this entire rebuild process. All these posts and comment threads will one day be a remarkable time capsule into what happened: detailing on a daily basis how Theo et al rebuilt the most maligned organization into, dare I say it, a World Series Champion. We are so fortunate to have you and The Den and I can't imagine what our Cubs world would be like without it.

    And you're right: This rebuild and therefore these prospects are The Story. At least for now. But, in fact, the other day I was wondering what this site will be like when the Cubs are kicking ass and taking names. I can't tell you how much I look forward to that day -- and Felzz's recaps! Oh boy!

    One last thing: sometimes I'm also a contrarian, not to be a troll, but to raise the counterargument, to question Cubs Den conventional wisdom, to cross-examine and to test the truth through the adversarial process. It's also one of the reasons that I appreciate Gordon Wittenmeyer. I firmly believe that some amount of bitching and moaning is actually good for "the process" as well.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Thanks for the kind words, TTP. I know you like to be a contrarian sometimes, but I consider that different than being a troll, so no worries.

    We all bleed Cubbie blue -- and man, I don't like when they lose even when I know it benefits them in the long run. Can't help it.

    It's the same with the prospects. I want to see them play as much as anyone, but I know that it hurts them more than it helps to call them up now.

    And nobody deserves a winning team to recap more than Felzz!

  • In reply to TTP:

    I would have no problem with Gordon Wittenmeyer if he was actually pointing out mistakes or moves that the FO makes that don't work out. But he seems to just make stuff up to create controversy so he can sell papers. That seems to be all he does. Maybe he will change when the Cubs are a sustained winner. Who knows.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Amen, brother - to all of that!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TTP:

    I don't think you can compare Pie, Patterson and other Hendry/Tribune era prospects to what's coming through the pipe in this regime.

    A different developmental approach, better scouting and the players seem to have better tools to survive in the majors.

  • In reply to JimL:

    I think the development is so key. This FO has a plan for each player that they are told to follow. I don't recall the Hendry regime doing anything like that.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Patterson was ranked in the top 3 in all of baseball, I believe. I agree with you on Lake.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    Most of the involved fans, and that includes a great many on this board, knew that Lake was hitting over his head and would come down to earth sooner or later.

    Alcantara is a much more highly rated prospect than Lake ever was. The excitment over him has more to do with scouting reports and MILB performance than it does with his 4 hit game.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    I think most of us knew about the holes in Junior's game and what he was before he arrived at the ML level. We were just waiting to see how long he could last. Never say never, but I think Junior may be beyond salvaging. I'll still believe that when he goes 4 for 4 with 2 HR's and makes an out trying to turns a double into a triple. Exciting ... every so often. Fundamentally sound ...I don't think so.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    My point is that we tend to go bananas when a prospect comes up to the show and has a good game or a good streak. It hasn't mattered how highly they've been ranked. People were penciling in Lake as a starter when he had a good streak. Alcantara comes up, has a really great second game, and suddenly he's the starting centerfielder on some people's lists. That's nonsense and as non-sensical as writing in Lake as a starting outfielder. All I'm saying it that it is quite silly to go ga-ga over 1 good game or even a hot streak. It's like falling in love with the first good-looking girl you go out with and maybe even kiss. A lot of them are gone tomorrow and become a vague memory.

  • An infield made up of Baez, Rizzo, Castro, and Russel or substituting in Alcantara or Bryant for any of those first 4 people would be one of the best infields I have ever heard of,...

    IF all these guys make it to the Bigs AND have impact careers,.... then I almost don't care who is filling out the starting rotation,....

    Almost,.....

  • Law just seems to be clinging onto that rumor that got started when Javy missed the 3-0 take sign and swung like he was going to send it into the next county...

    It was simple mistake by an 18yo Rookie mr. Law... let it go! No onbe who has ever coached or played with Javy has these questions....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Soler threatened an opposing teams dugout with a bat, but there are apparently no makeup concerns there in Law's eyes.

    Of course, whatever the makeup concern regarding Baez is that Law is clinging to, it didn't prevent him from ranking Baez 8th overall, which seems a fair grade. I mean Sickels had Baez 15th a couple days ago. But Sickels entire list seemed a huge reactionary piece of trash that weighted 2 months worth of statistics far more heavily then even his own scouting opinion.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    No, there were questions pre-draft by a lot of scouts about his make-up. IMHO, since I've been watching Javier since he was 14yo, they mis interpreted his super competitive spirit and sheer will to not only win, but to be the absolute best in the game. According to Wilken, McLeod, etc.... that theory still holds true.

    But in Rookie ball when Javier missed a take sign and swung away on a 3-0 pitch, all the make-up issues surfaced again.... It was a simple mistake. Not a conscious decisipn to ignore it or common sense ala Soler (I have no issue with Soler over that btw). Law is the only one that hasn't let it go. Every coach and player associated with Javy from the HS level on up raves about him. I've seen his 10hr work-outs in the off-season so his work ethic is NOT a question...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    There might be some racism involved in the makeup question. Latin players are often judged to a different standard, rather than accounting for cultural differences. Beisbol in Puerto Rico isn't the same as Little League and traveling teams in continental US.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    He moved to Florida when he was 13, so he did plenty of little league and travel ball in the US as a teenager. Not the root of this discussion I think.

  • on Law and make-up questions. I am not disagreeing with anything Law said or what John wrote, it can be subjective. Sounds to me that Baez is extremely talented and cocky and probably comes off as an immature 20 yr old that realizes he could be a star soon.

    What I did find interesting is Law is down on Baez over make-up but higher on Soler than others. He said in his write up that Soler could be top 10 prospect with his bat if just healthy. On the other hand, Baseball Prospectus (and Prof. Parks) is way down on Soler over make-up concerns. Both could be valid, both could be overblown but just interesting the differences of opinion.

  • In reply to DoubleM:

    Maybe Law can't get over that MLB tattoo.

  • In reply to DoubleM:

    DoubleM, what you just said is very similar to what i was told by a scout. Baez is immature, maybe a little arrogant, but that is not uncommon for a 21 year old. There really is no question from anyone I know as far as anything to seriously worry about.

    It is very subjective.

  • Patrick Mooney's column today mentions "Javy being Javy" in the same sentence as "Manny being Manny" and how it pertains to the Cub Way. So again a make-up question that I don't really get. Especially to compare Javy to the Manny of old. It seems like any "make-up" issues have to do with an excess of competitive fire. It doesn't seem like he has work ethic issues at all.

  • In reply to jorel1114:

    Can't remember if it was on Twitter or his chat, but recently Law alluded that the Baez make-up concern was a "hanging with the wrong crowd" type of thing.

  • In reply to Todd Smart:

    the wrong Des Moines crowd? Interesting "rumor" or whatever, I hadn't heard that.

  • No such thing as to much of anything. Beats the past when they
    could not product a top 10 list. Somebody will have to be traded
    but we have the time to see them develop and see where the
    chips land.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed. These are good problems.

  • The Cubs are well represented on the 2018 All-Fantasy Team.

    espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/story/_/id/11223359/mike-trout-kris-bryant-clayton-kershaw-lead-all-2018-fantasy-team

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Can't wait until it becomes the 2018 all-reality team.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    The Cubs have eight guys mentioned not including Alcantara or Almora, or relief pitchers like Rameriz or Vizciano. The future looks very, very bright!

  • Any thoughts on Almora not making the list. Not sure where he was on Law's preseason list, but in my eyes, the recent hot streak cancels out the slow start and he has remained relatively level for the season.

    Also, anyone with more experience than me in how these rankings work have any idea how far from the top 50 schwarber is? Understood, he's only got a month and a half of professional baseball under his belt, but he's probably matched Bryant's start at the plate. Thoughts?

  • In reply to Mjtharp2:

    Probably the slow start and his inability to take walks... I think he still ranks top 100 if he has a strong 2nd half, like the one he's having.

  • In reply to Mjtharp2:

    I've heard Law voice concerns that Schwarber cannot play LF or C and he thinks he will wind up at 1B. Personally I think he underestimates his athleticism and is going by his height and weight.

    I am sure Almora is in the top 100, but Law was never as big a fan as Parks or McDaniel.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, he had the same issues with Voggelbach... But I think Schwarber is way more athletic... Schwarber is big, but he's football big, he's not fluffy or anything... I also think he could catch, but would take him more development time and that's wasted time for his bat.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I think the nice thing with schwarber as a potential catcher is that he is behind almost everyone else in the pipeline. The FO should have the chance to see who is hitting and who is not at the big league level. If the corner OF spots are covered, you can keep schwarber down to work behind the plate. If not you can promote him and have him play left

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I have seen Schwarber in person twice the past two weeks. He is not a tub of lard or porky. He does not have rolls of fat. He's a big, stocky kid. He is just built big. He moves down the line as a runner just fine and takes nice routes to the ball in the outfield. He's not a speed burner, but he gets the job done.

  • In reply to Mjtharp2:

    I think it is reasonable that Almora is not listed in the top 50. Although it would be foolish to rate a prospect as worthless after having a poor half season, it would be equally foolish to ignore the poor performance entirely. If almora comes back strongly in the second half and brings his BA close to .300 and his slugging average up a bit, he will be back in the top fifty this winter.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mjtharp2:

    Almora has been rated well by Law before but he has stated concern before about inability to take a walk.
    At the same time, I've seen Law defend Almora in his chats, saying he is not a hacker.

    Also, he mentions in his Bryant bit that there's value in playing at a higher level, so still being in Daytona might've cost him points.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mjtharp2:

    I was hoping to see Schwarber in or near the top 50 also. I think I saw Rondon, Gordon, and Jackson on the list. It has to be based on the fact that Schwarber projects as a below average fielder regardless of position.

  • I find it equally funny how we have the top prospect in all of baseball and while I'm sure we all feel it's amazing, we instead shrug our shoulders and go, yeah, he is the best.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Haha! It's not evena big deal anymore to us :)

  • I'm thinking the makeup questions come after Baez reportedly "sulked" after not making the team as well as the altercation with E Whiteside.

    The "sulking" is pure rumors and speculation and even if it was true, Baez wouldn't be the first prospect to react like that... The altercation was unfortunate... But I wouldn't judge Baez based on those 2 incidents and only incidents of that nature that I've ever heard from him... If it was a recurring thing, then yeah.

    If anything and I've said this several times, Baez' attitude reminds me more of Bryce Harper than someone with real makeup problems like Yasiel Puig or Carlos Gomez.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I think Harper is a pretty good comp. Kind of brash, cocky,.but not a bad guy.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly.

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    I thought it was interesting that brady aiken didn't even make the list. Quite a fall from his number one pick status just a month or so ago.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Kevin Simcox:

    Aiken hasn't signed. Law is only including players that signed.

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    In reply to Giffmo:

    While I think its totally fair if people think Law makes too much of Baez' supposed makeup (he did mention a lazy field/ throw in the futures game this year), I think it might be people making too much of minor comments.

    If he thought this makeup issue was a legitimate concern/ detrimental, he would not be a top 8 prospect... especially considering his stats don't make him look like the prospect he is.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    That's true, but odd that he would keep mentioning it.

    Maybe he liked that it got him so much attention before. I think when you single out Baez when even I have heard about makeup questions on other prospects on the list, then I think that's skewing the picture. I think sometimes people are too willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he isn't always right -- not everyone in the industry agrees with him (or anyone else for that matter) on everything, so we are going to disagree with him when we have information to back us up.

  • fb_avatar

    I hope Almora, Vogelbach and Schwarber all stick it to Law. The guy is a class grade A clown in evaluating talent. Just had to get that off my chest. I fell better now. Move along...... LOL

  • Not disagreeing with the criticisms of Law. But he did rank three of our prospects in the top 10. Not too bad ...

  • In reply to October:

    Not bad at all, I think people are just questioning him singling out Baez for makeup issues every time.

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    Michael Conforto in the top 50, hmmmmm.

    Schawaber picked before him and tearing it up as a professional.

    FIRE THEO!!!

  • fb_avatar

    If Soler stays healthy he's going to make a lot of these rankers look silly.

  • Baez playing 2B tonight.. awwww snap

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    does 2nd base require more or less makeup than shortstop?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to CubfanInUT:

    That's kind of big. That is Baez's first minor league start at any position other than SS (or DH). IIRC, he did play some 2B in the AFL.

    Latest reports on Baez seem to indicate that he is still choppy at SS, and with the state of the Cubs system probably less reason than ever to stay there, so why not start to see what works for him

    Nothing wrong with a 2B that can hit 30+ HR

  • Baez's has his own style and people should just let him grow up

  • fb_avatar

    The only thing that worries me about Baez is he has a fairly long swing and that he is always swinging out of his shoes. He needs to learn how to shorten up his swing a lil bit.

  • In reply to Nathan Mausehund:

    With A++ bat speed, he doesn't need to shorten anything. That's why he has such outstanding power, which is why he is such a rare breed of middle infielder, which is why he is a top 10 prospect. His swing is quick enough to sit curve and still hit the inside fastball, which is unholy. His swing is not a problem, it's his approach.

  • John, with so many good prospects on the way is there less pressure on them to succeed at the major league level as compared to the occasional Cub prospects of the past?(Patterson, Pie Orie, Kelton,Etc).

  • Could Baez starting at 2nd indicate a definite decision to keep Alcantara in Chicago?

  • I'll concern myself with Javy's makeup when he actually DOES something that points to that. It seems to me that Law is picking at straws to stir something up.

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