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DOs And DONTs: Texas Rangers

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DOs And DONTs: Texas Rangers

Posted on 12 March 2012 by Jeff Coleman

Greetings once again, baseball and fantasy fans! In this edition of DO’s And DON’Ts, we will be taking a look at the AL Champion Texas Rangers. Coming off a stellar run in the 2011 Regular Season, the boys from Arlington ran into the tenacious St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic. Playing tooth and nail with their opponents, the Rangers ended up just short of capping a season of hope and promise with the World Series title they failed to nab in 2010.

Some folks like Texas more than others...

The Rangers have made some interesting moves in the off-season, and some pieces of their puzzle have shuffled off to elsewhere (apparently C.J. Wilson, pictured above, didn’t find enough to like about Texas). But we are hoping to sort through the craziness and give you some people to play, and people to maybe not like so much:

  • DON’T look for Yu Darvish to be the next Cy Young (instantly).

The Japanese phenom was the Rangers’ biggest pick-up in the offseason as they tried to offset the losses of Wilson and Brandon Webb to free agency. The (Hokkaido) Nippon Ham Fighters’ ace put up straight amazing numbers in his Pacific League career, tallying over 1000 Ks in five years, winning no less than 12 games, and averaging an ERA of 1.72 and a WHIP of 0.890. Numbers like that would be enough to make any team thrilled to have his services, and Texas got the luck of the draw. However, the track record for pitchers coming over from Japan is spotty at best. Darvish has the raw talent and seasoning to be a multiple All-Star caliber talent. The thing he does NOT have is Major League experience. The talent levels ARE different from Japan to the States, and it will take Darvish some time to establish a repertoire against MLB-style batters. The Rangers will likely throw him into the rotation immediately out of need and talent, and he will struggle to start as he gets into the groove. If someone has the stomach to handle the downs as well as the ups (especially in a keeper league), Yu Darvish will come into his own and be a major boon for them.

This one is a little hard to read, but there are several facets to Josh Hamilton’s potential year. He dealt with a broken arm (ouch) in April and May of last year, but recovered well. He had surgery to repair a sports hernia (again ouch) this past November, but stated at Rangers camp recently that the rehab went well. He is coming off of a second relapse in his substance abuse recovery earlier this year, but seems to have found renewed strength, drive, and determination. Plus, he is coming into his free agency season, but has stated that he will not discuss his contract once the Regular Season starts. It’s not hard to cheer for a guy to succeed in the face of so much chaos, but it is hard to see where there might be a bright side. Purely stats-wise, Hamilton’s numbers in 2011 were a few shades lower than his career averages, but were certainly no low water marks: Sporting an OPS of .882, a BAbip (Batting Average on balls in play) of .319, and slugging 25 HR in a year where you miss the majority of the first two months is nothing short of eye-catching. You have to dig deep to find a statistical flaw in Hamilton’s game; his infield pops have been on a consistent rise in his career (7% last season, up from 5% in 2010), and his WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 3.6 and RAR (Runs Above Replacement) of 38 were nearly halved from 2010, a campaign that saw him have only a handful more plate appearances (571) than 2011 (538). Stats like those are a long way to go to find a vulnerability in someone’s game. The bigger deciding factor this year for Hamilton’s performance will be his mental character and toughness. Will the off-field distractions upend him? Will he be able to keep his focus on baseball with contact talks looming? I will be pulling for Hamilton to persevere, but I have seen stranger things happen.

  • DON’T expect a big year from Ian Kinsler, but DON’T be too surprised by one either.

Kinsler is one of those talents that you feel hasn’t come into his own, mostly due to injuries suffered in almost each of his six seasons in the Majors (he wasn’t put on the DL at all last year, but was on paternity leave briefly in June for the birth of his second child). The surface number of a .255 BA from last year did not show that he took advantage of being on the field for the most games in a season (155) in his career, but career numbers in runs (121), total bases (296) and walks (89) show some promise. Kinsler is tough to pin down; he has not put together two back-to-back seasons where he has played over 125 games. His power numbers seem to peak when his average is low, and when he bats better, he has less punch. His game is very Jekyll / Hyde, or maybe more appropriately Bruce Banner / Incredible Hulk, and there seems to be very little consistency. However, digging deeper, his OPS has stayed relatively steady (anywhere from .794 to last year’s .832, with the .893 from ’08 as the outlying stat), and his WAR / RAR numbers have been largely similar after his rookie year. It is hard to say which Kinsler we’ll get this year (by the stats, he’s due for a higher average / lower power season), but last season proved that he can play just about the entire year. Another full, DL-free season could start normalizing his numbers and give a more accurate fantasy picture of Kinsler’s worth. All that being said, he’s a definite draft in the earlier rounds, and will provide some statistical boosts. He might hurt you in some categories, but it is that hint and hope of the five-tool player that makes him an attractive draft target.

  • DO take a flyer on Adrian Beltre, but DON’T mortgage the farm on him.

Beltre is one of those players that has shown consistency in the past, scattered with flashes of astounding brilliance and holes in his game that people learned to accept. Blessed with B+ / A- power with 310 career HRs, he’s also shown little patience as power hitters tend to, “sporting” 1219 Ks and a K/BB ratio of 2.24 through his 14 seasons. His early career showed glimpses of secondary tools in his arsenal with his above-average speed, though that is starting to fade later in his career. His defense is a relative liability, though that won’t factor in most fantasy leagues. The bigger concern in my eyes is an inconsistent batting average. His career average is .276, but he’s hit below that in nine out of 14 seasons, including six seasons of .265 or below. Your heavy power hitters still should have an above-average… Uhm… Average; a consistent .275 makes just that many more opportunities for good things to happen. At a 38% XBH career clip, Beltre has a very good tendency to turn hits into big trouble for opposing pitchers. If he could perform like he has the past two seasons in average (.321 in 2010, .296 in 2011), Adrian Beltre will be a HUGE boon for the Rangers. Age and durability are a key, but he has said he’s feeling good, with no lingering effects from the bruised knee that he sustained in last year’s postseason. If the Rangers have Beltre’s services for over 135 games this season, they will be a beast to handle in the AL.

Ulnar Collateral Ligament reconstruction used to be a fickle thing. In 1974, when Dr. Frank Jobe first performed the procedure on the slick, sinker-balling southpaw known as Tommy John. The chances of a pitcher recovering enough to ever throw again were 1-in-100. As of ’09, the procedure has a complete recovery rate of anywhere between 85 and 92 percent. With a combination of increased conditioning and the pure fact that there is a strong ‘ligament’ in place as opposed to the degrading UCL, most pitchers find that they’re able to throw close to what they could at the peak of their careers after the approximately year-long recovery. Joe Nathan is now 2 years out, and he is ready to get back to business. Last year was obviously an off year for Nathan, the months of April and August being rather damning in the final picture. But still, the (career-wise) anomalous 4.84 ERA was netted with 14-17 saves converted, 43 Ks, a .222 average against, and only walking 14. Looking into the deep stat lines, you can see a 79% contact rate (that includes hits AND fouls), a sharp jump from the 67% rate in ’09. Also evident are a dip in his K ratio (32.8% to 22.5%), a jump in his extra base ratio (6.3% to 9.4%), and also his balls-in-play ratio (55% to 64%) is elevated. This seems to indicate that Nathan was still finding his stride after recovery, or that maybe he was coming back too soon. I firmly believe that Joe Nathan is in-line to get back to his better days; going to a team where he has already been told that he’s the closer without a shadow of a doubt is good for one’s psyche. He has the tools and experience to pitch lights out. With the Tommy John well-behind him, and a full off-season and Spring Training in the realm of “normal”, I expect Nathan to hit the Arlington mound running and not look back.

As I stated in my last article about the Indians, don’t look at this as a Bible to evaluate the talent of the Rangers for your own fantasy roster. Only the fantasy GM knows best what their needs and play style are. However, look at this article (and the other DO’s And DON’Ts articles our excellent writers have published) as “food for thought” and a general guide of insights.

Did I miss a spring stud that looks to bust out in a big way? Did I tout someone that is looking to hit the skids, or worse: the waiver wire? Go ahead and hit the comments below, or find me on Twitter at @JCPronkFan48.

(As a side note, I would like to send my heartfelt sympathies and blessings to the victims of last Friday’s rash of storms and tornadoes. I managed to volunteer in Henryville, IN as a representative of the Air Force Reserves on Saturday the 3rd, and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Baseball fans, if you can help these unfortunates in any way at all, please do so… Any little bit helps.)

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DOs and DONTs: Chicago White Sox

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DOs and DONTs: Chicago White Sox

Posted on 05 March 2012 by Jared Thatcher

At first glance there weren’t really that many players I would draft from the White Sox this year. But upon further investigation, they may have some very valuable middle to late round picks that could add depth and production to your team.

DO find solace in the many young arms in the bullpen this year. Addison Reed, Matt Thornton, and Jesse Crain should all be lock down out of the bullpen no matter what order you put them in. They probably won’t have a ton of save opportunities, but should provide innings and strikeouts.

DONT even think about drafting most of their starting rotation this year. Gavin Floyd is injury prone and doesn’t put up great numbers. Jake Peavy is an absolute mystery, even to himself. He has lost velocity and doctors say his arm is as good as it’s going to get.

DO consider drafting John Danks as your number 3-5 starting pitcher. He has had a rough couple of years but I’m confident he can pitch 200 innings this year with an ERA under 4.00. The 150 strikeouts from him will be nice also toward the back of your rotation.

DO not overlook a couple of the other young arms on the team, Philip Humber and Nestor Molina. Molina came over in a trade from the Blue Jays and is a decent prospect. Humber provided over 200 innings of 4.00 ERA ball last year while striking out 150 batters. He should once again be a workhorse in 2012.

DONT take the chance on any of their outfielders unless you are absolutely desperate. Alex Rios had a terrible year in 2011 and there is no reason why he should be any better this year. Alejandro De Aza had a nice line over 54 games in 2011 but he is unproven. Dayan Viciedo was a good prospect in his day and still has some potential, but I would stay away until he proves himself.

DO DO DO pick up Paul Konerko as at least your DH this year. He is an RBI machine and has a great batting average to go along with it. He should be the same productive player he has always been, even considering his age.

DONT draft young infielders Brent Morel or Gordon Beckham. They were touted as future superstars and have shined at times, but the shine tarnished quickly and they were revealed to be below-average players. Don’t take the chance on these two guys until they can prove they can be productive week in and week out.

DO not expect Adam Dunn to hit under .200 again. Although the batting average is never very high for Dunn (he strikes out a ton), he should regain his swing and once again hit at least 30 home runs. Let Dunn slide as far as you can in the draft but don’t be afraid to take him as your DH in 2012.

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DOs and DONTs: Washington Nationals

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DOs and DONTs: Washington Nationals

Posted on 05 March 2012 by Aaron Somers

Washington finished the 2011 season just a game below .500 for the first time since the Nationals came into existence just before the 2005 season. While it was a big step in the right direction for the organization as a whole, outside of Michael Morse (31 HR, 95 RBI) and Danny Espinosa (21 HR, 66 RBI) there remained few legitimate fantasy options worth pursuing on the active roster.

The team underwent some major changes over the winter months, particularly in the starting rotation. With a promising young outfielder you may have heard of – Bryce Harper – slated to join the team in Washington sometime this season, the Nationals’ fantasy landscape may be vastly different from just one year ago.

  • DO consider strongly when to draft Harper, particularly in keeper leagues. It seems evident that the hyped prospect and “once in a generation” talent will be joining the Nationals in Washington at some point early on this season. Most expectations are that he’ll remain in the minor leagues at least for the season’s first month (to prevent free agency by a year) but there are no guarantees when he’ll make his MLB Debut. He’s going to have to hit while in the minors and continue the new-found maturity he’s exhibited thus far during Spring Training in order to force the organization to get him in the lineup. You don’t want to draft him too early but you don’t want to wait too long either.
  • If your league counts holds in addition to saves, DON’T forget to keep Tyler Clippard in mind. His 38 led the National League in 2011 and he’s in position to put up similar numbers in 2012. Plus, don’t forget he was good for 11 bullpen wins in 2010.
  • DO take a flyer on second baseman Danny Espinosa. Considering the lack of quality second baseman across the Major Leagues, Espinosa has the potential to jump into that next tier of quality options at the position. He showed glimpses of a strong power potential (21, 66 – as mentioned above) but otherwise struggled at the plate with a poor batting average (.236) and on base percentage (.323). He could be poised to breakout this season as he continues to improve with more experience.
  • Meanwhile, Espinosa’s double play partner Ian Desmond is someone you DON’T want to rely upon as your starting shortstop option. Beyond an ability to swipe 25-30 bases he doesn’t provide much offensive value, at least not consistently.
  • Veteran Mark DeRosa is a potential bench option that I think you DO keep an eye on. After missing most of the past two seasons he finally appears to be healthy and has been swinging the bat well so far this Spring. He seems likely to get a high number of at bats between first base and right field. The added positional versatility could also be a plus.
  • DON’T count on much from Chien-Ming Wang and Adam LaRoche until they can prove their health first. Wang has missed far too much time to expect big things from him out of the gate, but he still holds too much potential to simply ignore. Keep him in mind on a late April waiver claim if your roster isn’t deep enough to stash him on the bench somewhere.
  • Both Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson are pitchers primed for big seasons, so DO consider them when drafting your pitching staff. Zimmermann is another year removed from Tommy John surgery and seems to be on the verge of a major breakout season which could place him among the NL’s best. Meanwhile, with Jackson joining his 9th organization in his 10th MLB season he’s likely to be extra motivated to prove to teams that he’s worth offering a multi-year contract to next winter.
  • If you’re hoping for strikeouts from your bullpen options, DON’T count on much from Brad Lidge. Sure, he holds a strong K/9 rate but his inability to pitch significant innings negates that value. He’ll likely find himself in middle relief situations with Washington, serving mainly as a veteran mentor in the bullpen rather than one of the team’s main options.
  • DO consider Jayson Werth as one of your outfielders. He can’t possibly hit any worse that he did last year, right?
  • DON’T forget that once he pitches 160-170 innings, Stephen Strasburg is going to be shut down for the season – regardless of where the Nationals are in the standings. The team is focused on Strasburg’s ability to help them win games long term and they aren’t going to risk anything by having him throw too much this season. Likely sometime in early to mid August Strasburg’s season will likely be done.

It’s certainly going to be an interesting season to watch in Washington as this team could surprise a lot of people after the strong offseason they just had. Which of these players will you be targeting in your upcoming fantasy baseball draft?

Be sure to check out the remainder of our series on DOs and DON’Ts to see how our staff evaluated your favorite team. Let us know whether you agree or disagree.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@BlogFTBleachers) for more of my thoughts on baseball. You can also follow my coverage of the Nationals at District on Deck.

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DOs and DONTs: Atlanta Braves

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DOs and DONTs: Atlanta Braves

Posted on 04 March 2012 by Gary Marchese

The Atlanta Braves are coming off a miserable collapse.  Yes believe it or not the Boston Red Sox weren’t the only team that collapsed last year.  This is a look at their 40 man roster as we head into the 2012 season.  The other 29 teams in baseball have been covered by me and my colleagues so take a look at all 30 Dos and Don’ts before you draft your fantasy baseball team.  Here we go with the Atlanta Braves.

Do take a look at Jason Heyward.  He did have a bad year last year but he had a good rookie year and I would expect him to bounce back this year.  He still hit 14 homeruns last year after hitting 18 the year before.  I would expect him to be able to hit 20-25 consistently and bat around 275.  He suffered a sophomore slump but that is all behind him now and he is looking to have a productive 2012.

Don’t take Chipper Jones because of his name.  He has played regularly and with the Braves since 1995.  He has had a great career but he is getting older and just isn’t the same player.  He is still pretty productive though.  He hit 275 last year with 18 homeruns and 70 RBI.  He won’t play all the time though and is injury prone now.  If you take him your taking a big risk.

Do look at Dan Uggla for second base.  I wouldn’t put him at the top of my list but  he will give you great power from a position that doesn’t always do that.  Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Chase Utley are all better all around players but Uggla will provide huge power for your team.  Uggla last year hit 233 which was the lowest batting average of his career.  He still hit 36 homeruns though and drove in 82.  The lowest amount of homeruns he hit in a year was 27 with 82 being the lowest amount of runs driven in by him.  He is going to give you 25+ homeruns and 80+ RBI, that is good production from a second baseman.

Don’t look at Matt Diaz as anything more then a potential bench player.  He is a career 296 hitter but has never had more then 135 games played.  He also doesn’t hit for much power or drive in many runs.  13 homeruns and 58 RBI were his best numbers for a single season.

Do like what you see out of Freddie Freeman for a first baseman.  He could suffer a sophomore slump but especially in a keeper league he is a guy worth looking at.  Freeman last season hit 282 with a 346 on base percentage.  He had 21 homeruns and 76 RBI.  He is a monster of a guy and should be a good power first baseman for years to come.

Don’t go crazy over Jack Wilson.  He isn’t a bad player but he isn’t one of the top second baseman.  He is good with the glove but his career batting average is at 266, he won’t hit many homeruns or drive in many.  His best homerun year was 12 and the most RBI he had in a season was 62.  A decent player but nothing real special and on his own team I would take Uggla ahead of him.

Do take a look at Eric Hinske.  He is a veteran and if for nothing else a winner.  He always seems to be on the team that makes the World series although Atlanta had to collapse last season and ruin that for him a little.  He is a nice backup/bench player.  He is an outfielder with some pop and he is very good in the clutch.  He is worth taking a look at as an extra player.

Don’t know if I would take Tim Hudson.  He has been a good pitcher for a long time but he is getting older.  He is also coming off of back surgery and that is a red flag for me.  He may return to the Braves in May but that is risky.  He did have a good season last year going 16-10 with a 3.22 ERA.  In the last two years he has pitched a lot of innings.  He pitched 228 innings in 2010 and 215 last season.  He is a good pitcher but I wouldn’t take a risk with him right now.

Tommy Hanson is a very good young pitcher.  I would say Do take a good look at him.  The only concern I would have with him is that he did suffer a concussion in February in a car accident.  I don’t think it will affect him long term and he seems to be ok right now but you never know with a head injury.  I still wouldn’t mind him on my team especially in a keeper league where I can take good young players and have them on my team for years to come.

Don’t take Martin Prado on your team if your looking for power.  He is a guy that can hit for average but  he doesn’t have much power.  He isn’t going to drive in many runs for you either.  He isn’t going to steal bases at all either.  He is a guy to have on your team if your looking at only batting average.  I would pass on him though.  He is also a guy that the Braves talked about trading away.

Do take Michael Bourn especially if your looking to add speed to your team.  Bourn is an exciting young player to have.  Bourn in the last four years has stolen 41, 61, 52 and 61 bases in that order.  He has a career 271 batting average.  He isn’t going to hit homeruns or drive in runs but that isn’t his game.  I would especially take him if I am looking for speed and he would be a good backup player to have.

Don’t take too much of a look at the Braves bullpen other then their closer Craig Kimbrel.  He had good overall numbers but even he blew eight saves and contributed to the collapse.  I wouldn’t look to hard at their bullpen.

Do love what Brian McCann can bring to your team as a catcher.  He is a 286 career hitter and also has some power.  He will give you 20-25 homeruns and drive in 80+ runs.  That is very productive especially coming from the catchers position.

Jair Jurrjens is another guy I want to mention to finish this article up.  Jurrjens was in trade rumors this off-season.  He is a good young pitcher and I would say Do take him on your team.  Last season he was 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA.  He does have a bad right knee which has slowed him down, at the end of the last two seasons.  That would be my only real concern with him.  He is a guy that is at least worth looking at even as a reserve guy on your team.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and all the Dos and Don’ts that our team has done for you.  We have worked very hard to get all 30 teams to you before the fantasy drafts start in the next couple of weeks.  If you have any thoughts and anyone I may have missed please don’t hesitate to let me know.  You can comment under the article here on the website.  If you are a Twitter person like myself, you can reach me there @gmarchesej.

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DOs And DONTs: Oakland Athletics

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DOs And DONTs: Oakland Athletics

Posted on 29 February 2012 by Gary Marchese

This is a look at the Oakland Athletics 40 man roster.  It is a fantasy baseball look though.  If I were drafting a team and looking at the Athletics specifically this is what I would and wouldn’t do.  If there are any comments, thoughts, questions please feel free to respond on the site.  I also have a twitter account which I can be reached on @marches, feel free to connect with me there.  I hope you enjoy this article as well as the others I have done and my colleagues have done.  We have worked really hard to have all 30 MLB teams covered by time your drafts happen in the next month.

Do take a look at Bartolo Colon for depth in your pitching rotation.  He isn’t a top of the line guy anymore and you may not even think he is worth it.  He resurrected his career in New York last year though and in a pitchers park should do even better this year.  He was 8-10 last year with a 4.00 ERA, he made 26 starts the most he had made in four years.  I would definitely take a good look at him.

Don’t take a flyer on Manny Ramirez.  First of all he is coming off of retirement.  He is also a bad egg who is bound to get into trouble.  He also has to serve a 50 game suspension at the beginning of the season.  Ramirez won’t be around until the 51st game of the season.  That is too much time to waste in a fantasy league.  I would stay far away from him for these reasons.

Do take an interest in Yoenis Cespedes.  I don’t know if he will ever be a good major league player.  That is hard to predict but what an athlete.  He is playing in a place where there really isn’t any pressure.  Oakland may have more eyes on them now because of the Moneyball movie but I doubt it.  They are overshadowed in their own division, never mind league and even state.  I would take a chance on a guy like this and see what happens.

Don’t think Daric Barton is a first baseman to even consider.  He has never showed the power the Athletics thought he would.  Barton was even sent to the minors last year after a sluggish start.  Last season he hit 212 with no homeruns and 21 RBI.  He played in 67 games.

Do like that Coco Crisp can bring some speed to your team.  In the last two years he has stolen a total of 81 bases.  He is a good center fielder and a veteran.  He may not be great but he is a solid career 275 hitter.  He won’t offer much pop but he could get you 6-8 homeruns and around 50 RBI.

Don’t think Jonny Gomes can be an everyday outfielder.  He has never played more then 148 games.  He is a career 242 hitter.  He will provide some power but it won’t be more then 20 homeruns especially playing in Oakland.  He isn’t going to steal many bases and he isn’t going to be on base at a great rate.  He has a career 329 on base percentage.

Cliff Pennington won’t be at the top of the shortstop list.  He also won’t be your worst option of a to DO list.  Pennington in the last two years has gotten his chance.  He has hit 250 and 264, he has hit six and eight homeruns and driven in 46 and 58.  He stole 29 bases two years ago and 14 last year so he has the ability to add some speed to your team.

Brandon Allen has shown nothing in the majors to even look at.  His career average is 210.  He has hit a total of 11 homeruns in three  years.  He has 38 RBI in three years, for anyone this is bad but especially a first baseman.  He won’t steal you any bases either or get on base at a high rate.  There is nothing to like about him and he is a big DON’T.

Do take a shot with Josh Reddick at least as a reserve outfielder.  He played the most games last year for the Red Sox and showed them something.  He showed enough to get them Andrew Bailey in a trade.  Bailey is a proven closer and the Red Sox needed that badly after losing Jonathan Papelbon.  Reddick last year batted 280 with seven homeruns and 28 RBI.  He had a 327 on base percentage.

If there is anyone on this list you think that I missed please let me know through a post on the site or contact me through twitter.  I look forward to all responses.  This wasn’t an easy article to write.  The Athletics really don’t have many names at all on their roster.  Most teams have some clear cut Dos, they have a lot of don’ts on their team and that made it more difficult.  The Athletics will most be remembered for money ball but not for the team on the field.  They may have some headlines with Manny Ramirez around and by signing Cespedes but other then that there isn’t much to talk about.

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