Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

My 2013 Fantasy Baseball Team

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Kemp reacts to being Boss' first round pick in my fantasy league for the 2nd year running. Photo unknown via ladodgertalk.com

Editor’s note: feel free to stop reading now if you don’t want to read 4,400+ words on my fantasy baseball team.  I won’t blame you for it.  For those of you who do play fantasy, as I made picks I wrote down who I was considering and who was available per each pick to try to give some context for the pick.  I’ll insert a “jump” line here so that RSS readers don’t have to see this whole massive post :-)

(For the really bored; my 2011 Fantasy team and my 2012 Fantasy team draft analysis.  These links are interesting if only for the guys who went in the early rounds then who are chaff now.  Neither team fared very well; I finished 9th of 12 in 2012, 7th of 10 in 2011.  In both cases debilitating injuries to my upper-end draft picks killed my teams).

League overview: 12 team 6×6 head to head.  I had the 8th of 12 picks.  Your categories are:

  • Hitting: Runs, HRs, RBIs, SBs, Batting Average and OPS.
  • Pitching: Wins, Saves, K’s, ERA, WHIP and Losses.

Positions are conventional Fantasy: C,1B,2B,3B,SS, 3 OFs and a util guy.  2 SP, 2 RP, 3 other Ps, 5 bench guys and a DL spot for a 21-man roster/21-round draft.

These are the categories we had in 2011; in 2012 we replaced Losses with Holds to a very bad effect; chasing Holds in baseball is worse than chasing Saves.  There was so much animosity towards the Hold category that we just went back to Losses (which one person in particular in the league rails against, but that’s more or less because he had starters in 2011 who would get unlucky losses all the time).  One last note; to prevent pitcher “churn and burn” there is a transaction limit of 65 moves for the season.

My draft strategy:

  • Starting Pitcher focused; I like starters (hey, its a blog that’s supposed to be about pitching)
  • Focus on NL, high K/9 starters only as much as possible
  • Get the minimum number of hitters, and get them early to get the best players available.
  • Wait on first base if you don’t get the right fit
  • Do not chase Catchers
  • Get a high end closer if they’re available, but don’t over spend.  Do not punt on closers.
  • As opposed to years past, do try to get as many closers as possible.

We had at least two people drafting almost entirely off of Yahoo’s ranks, which alters the draft in a very important way; if there’s a guy on your Yahoo ranks who is just sitting out there seemingly passed over, you have to plan ahead and grab him before the autodrafters get him.  This also works out for known injury issues (think Roy Halladay this year, who people avoided like the plague).

Here’s my team, round by round:

  • 1st round (#8 overall): Matt Kemp OF-LAD
  • 2nd round (#17 overall): Justin Verlander SP-Det
  • 3rd round (#32 overall): Yoenis Cespedes OF-Oak
  • 4th Round (#41 overall): Jason Heyward OF-ATL
  • 5th Round (#56 overall): Yu Darvish SP-TEX
  • 6th round (#65 overall): R.A. Dickey SP-TOR
  • 7th round (#80 overall): Kris Medlen SP-ATL
  • 8th Round (#89 overall): Carlos Santana C/1B-CLE
  • 9th Round (#104): Ike Davis 1B-NYM
  • 10th Round (#113): David Freese 3B-STL
  • 11th Round (#128): Sergio Romo RP-SF
  • 12th Round (#137): Rickie Weeks 2b-MIL
  • 13th Round (#152): Casey Jannsen RP-TOR
  • 14th Round (#161): Danny Espinosa 2B/SS-WAS
  • 15th Round (#176): Jarrod Parker SP-OAK
  • 16th Round (#185): Brandon League RP-LAD
  • 17th round (#200): Edinson Volquez SP-SD
  • 18th Round (#209): Alexi Ogando SP/RP-Tex
  • 19th Round (#224): Brandon Belt 1B-SF
  • 20th Round (#233): Wade Miley SP-Ari
  • 21st Round (#248): Vinnie Pestano RP-CLE

Below are my round-by-round picks with discussion.  Yahoo O-Ranks are given; this is Yahoo’s rank for the player for the 2013 season.  Average Draft Rank (ADP) is listed as per MockDraftCentral’s ratings.

  • 1st round (#8 overall)Matt Kemp OF-LAD (Yahoo #5, ADP #5); I got good ADP value in the first round, which is tough to do.  Sitting at the 8th pick I was hoping to have Joey Votto fall to me (he did not).  If the draft had gone Yahoo chalk i’d have gotten Carlos Gonzalez.  As it turned out, Vito reached for Albert Pujols so I could choose between Kemp, CarGo or to reach for the likes of Giancarlo Stanton or the top pitchers on the board.  Frankly, I thought that drafting one of the big-3 starters was too early at #8.  I had made a conscious decision to avoid Stanton (I like him, don’t get me wrong, but I think with zero lineup protection he’s just not going to produce this year), and CarGo always seems like an injury concern.  I had the #1 overall pick last year and took Kemp as well; he promptly got hurt and killed my team.  Can it happen two years in a row?  Kemp prior to 2012 was incredibly durable and we’re going to hope he returns to form in 2013.   I expect him to push for another 40/40 season like he just missed in 2011 and to return to being the top fantasy producer he can be.   In the end, I’m slightly worried about this pick but you can’t pass up Kemp falling to #8 when he was #1 overall last year.
  • 2nd round (#17 overall): Justin Verlander SP-Det (Yahoo #13, ADP #10): I have to admit, I don’t like to draft pitching TOO early.  I was initially targeting Jose Bautista here but he went early.  I REALLY wanted Bryce Harper here but he went the pick before mine.  So I was left with a choice between Verlander and Clayton Kershaw (Strasburg had done a few picks earlier … clear homer pick from a guy in the league who drafted like half the Nats team last year).  Kershaw versus Verlander?  They had nearly identical stats last year and were #7 and #8 respectively in Yahoo’s 2012 standings.  Normally AL versus NL would have led me to take Kershaw … but I went with Verlander because I think his division is going to be slightly easier, and I think Verlander was slightly unlucky last year to “only” get 17 wins.  Detroit is improved in 2013 and seems like a good bet to win quite a few more games than 2012, which will translate to more stats for Verlander.  Hey, any time you can take the best pitcher in the game in the 2nd round, you have to.
  • 3rd round (#32 overall): Yoenis Cespedes OF-Oak (Yahoo #27, ADP #42): There was a big discrepancy between ADP and Yahoo’s ranks for Cespedes, probably because of the park he plays in and his difficulties staying healthy in 2012.  Regardless, I’m taking the risk.  I like this guy’s power and overall abilities, I think he’s an easy 20/20 guy and could push for 30/30 if he plays the full year.  I wanted Edwin EncarnationJosh Hamilton or (especially) Buster Posey at this spot but they were all snapped up.  I was choosing between Cespedes, Ian Kinsler and Jason Heyward here.  I’ve had and been disappointed with Kinsler in years past and thought Heyward would have been a slight overdraft here.
  • 4th Round (#41 overall): Jason Heyward OF-ATL (Yahoo #30, ADP #28): Well, when the pick came back around to me and one of the guys I was considering for the 3rd round pick was available in the 4th, it was an easy decision.  I was targeting Matt Cain but he got snapped up a few picks before this.  I was considering between Heyward and the likes of Adam Jones, Jacoby Ellsbury and Paul Goldschmidt before settling in Heyward as having the best value.  I don’t like Baltimore players in general (AL East; lots of good pitching there), Ellsbury is a massive injury headache and I thought perhaps Goldschmidt would survive til the 5th round (I was wrong).  I got Heyward and I think I got really good value for him (11-13 spots after he should have been drafted by both Yahoo and ADP: that’s an entire round in a 12-team league).
  • 5th Round (#56 overall): Yu Darvish SP-TEX (Yahoo #46, ADP #51): I was targeting R.A. Dickey for this pick as the round unfolded; I lost Goldschmidt, someone reached for Craig Kimbrel and someone else snapped up Ben Zobrist, so Darvish was sitting there as the Best Player available for the price.  I got him 10 picks later than Yahoo’s ranks and right about on his ADP.  I know this goes against my AL starter philosophy but consider this; Darvish had 16 wins and 221Ks for Texas last year, excelling in April and September but struggling in between.  Does this sound like a guy who was struggling to make the transition to the US and to 4-day rest starts?  Perhaps.  I think he’s settled down and will have a much improved 2nd season in the majors (Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s 2nd year in the US?  18-3 improved from 15-12; sometimes NPB pitchers need a season to adjust).  I like Darvish’s arm, he already gets a ton of strikeouts AND he gets Houston’s 120 loss team for 2013 as a divisional rival.  I think he’s a stud for 2013.  I had targeted him before the draft and I got him.
  • 6th round (#65 overall): R.A. Dickey SP-TOR (Yahoo #54, ADP #58): As with Heyward, when a guy you were considering the pick before is still sitting there, you kinda have to take him.  Also on the board here for consideration was Madison Bumgarner, CC Sabathia and Jason Kipnis.  I’ve never liked Sabathia in fantasy; he takes too many 5-6 run poundings while absorbing a win for my liking.  Bumgarner is good and I like him … but he’s inconsisent.  Kipnis wasn’t exactly knocking my socks off to draft.  Meanwhile the #5 overall performer in Yahoo 2012 and the NL Cy Young award winner is still sitting there in the 6th round; what’s the risk?  Honestly, I don’t see why people are down on Dickey for 2013.  What makes anyone think his 2012 season was that much of a fluke and that he can’t repeat it in 2013?  He led the league in strikeouts and was a 20 game winner for a .500 team; even if he moves to the AL it isn’t as if he’s going to that much tougher a division (AL East versus NL East in 2013?  could be nearly a wash with the Yankees and Boston down years).  Plus he’s going to a better team that can get him more wins.  Yes he’s 38, but he trends like a knuckleballer who has mastered the pitch after working on it for a couple years.  He isn’t a flamethrower on his last legs who will drop off a cliff.  He can continue to throw 80mph knucklers for another 6 seasons (see Wakefield, Tim).  Let me put it a different way; if someone told you that the previous year’s Cy Young winner was available in the 6th round, you’d be ecstatic right?
  • 7th round (#80 overall): Kris Medlen SP-ATL (Yahoo #68, ADP #72): I thought Medlen was going to get picked just before me by the Atlanta-homer fan in our league … but I was given a reprieve when he decided to fill a missing position instead.   This is one of the few guys I had really targeted pre-draft and really wanted, and I got him, for good value (12 spots later than he should have gone by Yahoo chalk).  He’s another one that I don’t understand why he’s ranked so low; he had a 256 ERA+ last year!!   For the 2nd half he was as close to unhittable as any pitcher in recent memory.  What evidence is there that he’s not going to continue where he left off in 2013? He’ll be 2nd year back from TJ surgery with impeccable control (5+ K/BB ratio).  The only arguments that I’ve heard are either centered around his BABIP (which was low) and the old “he can’t do it forever” arguments.  Well, even if he pitches half as well as he did last year, that’d still be a 125 ERA+ pitcher for a 95-win team.  I’ll take it.

A quick note here before going on; through 7 rounds I look at my team and realize I now have 3 Outfielders and 4 Starting pitchers.  It is at this point that I realize that perhaps my pitching-heavy strategy may be at the severe detriment to my infield.  I need to start filling the team with hitters but honestly by this point nearly every valuable 2nd, SS or 3rd baseman is gone.  I’m not worried about 1B; I think you can get good 1B value later in the draft (as we’ll eventually see).  But I need to start filling out the team.  3B is notoriously weak right now and there’s nobody out there.

  • 8th Round (#89 overall): Carlos Santana C/1B-CLE (Yahoo #75, ADP #57); I love Santana here, though I’ll admit that I was looking at Jordan Zimmermann and would have taken him had he been available (he was snapped up just before I picked).  I think Zimmermann is going to be really, really good this year; he’s already an underrated guy but the news of his evolving change-up could turn him into a league Ace.  Meanwhile, Santana’s ADP discrepancy versus Yahoo’s ranking should tell you how high pundits are on him; he’s still young, he hit 27 homers in 2011 and he could be a monster.  Catcher but also 1B eligible in case I decide to play some catcher waiver wire games like I did last year.
  • 9th Round (#104): Ike Davis 1B-NYM (Yahoo #85, ADP #108).  Davis was one of the sleeper 1B guys I had targeted before the draft; he his 32 homers in 2012 despite a BABIP in the .240 range (.246 to be exact).  Most of the projection systems have him hitting in the .260 range with the same power in 2013, which I also believe is possible.   I had targeted Davis for this round for a bit and got my man; I wasn’t really considering anyone else here.
  • 10th Round (#113): David Freese 3B-STL (Yahoo #95, ADP #130): I was hoping that Chase Headley would have fallen to me but he didn’t.  I was also looking at my first closer (Joe Nathan) but he went a few picks ahead.  I took Freese, knowing he may start the season on the DL (he has a strained lower back; not a very serious injury).  I like Freese overall; a good solid hitter in the middle of St. Louis’ order.  129 OPS+ last year, right in his prime (age 30).   With a full season he could be a 25-homer, 90-RBI .300 hitter.  You can do worse.  I think his ADP was dropped because of this injury while Yahoo’s rankings hadn’t taken it into account.  He’s an injury risk regardless; he was hurt last year too.  I’ll have to keep an eye on him.  (Update: indeed he’s on the DL to start the season so I’m burning a waiver wire pick right now, getting best 3B available.  The injury notes say he’ll try to be back for the St. Louis home opener on 4/8/13, so perhaps its a quick DL trip).
  • 11th Round (#128): Sergio Romo RP-SF (Yahoo #136, ADP #124): Having missed out on Nathan, my strategy for this round was simple; Best Available Closer.  Hence picking a guy in Romo who was over valued per his Yahoo/ADP rank.  At this point 9 of the 30 named closers in the league were off the board, including at least the first two tiers of guys.   In a 12-team league its nearly impossible to get 5 full time closers as I used to do; my target was to get 3.  Romo was the best guy available, has great numbers, doesn’t seem to be in trouble of losing his spot now that Brian Wilson has been released.  I’ll take the closer for the defending WS champ.
  • 12th Round (#137): Rickie Weeks 2b-MIL (Yahoo #105, ADP #123): I need a 2nd baseman and the pickings were slim.  To make matters worse there was a mini-run on 2nd baseman just before my pick, costing me my targeted Chase Utley who (despite other people’s concerns) I think can have a bounce back season in 2013.  I picked up Weeks instead, perhaps against my better wishes.  I took Weeks in the FOURTH round in 2011, amazing.  He was an injury wreck in 2011 and a disappointment in 2012.   I don’t have high hopes on him for 2013 frankly, but I did get him 2 rounds later than he should have gone (so at least I got good fantasy value).  If he can bounce back to anything close to his 2010 numbers, I’ll have a massive steal here.
  • 13th Round (#152): Casey Jannsen RP-TOR (Yahoo #231, ADP #222): clearly a reach based on the ranks. I was looking directly at NY Mets starter Matt Harvey, who was sitting out there with a big circle on his name and he got taken just before me, the third time that had happened.  So I went with Best Closer Available again, and that was Jannsen.   His low rankings are probably due to question marks about him getting the closer job, but so far all indications are that he’s recovered from off-season surgery and is pitching well in the spring.  He was the best closer available on a team that isn’t set to lose 100 games so I grabbed him.  All the closer-tracking sites still have Jannsen in line for the job over Sergio Santos; lets hope they’re right.
  • 14th Round (#161): Danny Espinosa 2B/SS-WAS (Yahoo #154, ADP #134): I wanted Derek Jeter or especially Marco Scutaro, two guys who are both being severely under-appreciated on draft day.  Lost them both just before my pick.  So I got the best available shortstop-eligible guy left.  I briefly considered J.J. Hardy, who I carried most of last year, but Espinosa provides nearly as many homers as Hardy plus SBs (he has nearly been a 20/20 guy each of his first two seasons).  I have a sense that this could be Espinosa’s “Ian Desmond” season where he finally figures it out.  Positional flexibility helps too.  I was also looking at Nick Swisher here, but opted to get my SS filled instead of my utility, and I had my mind on a good late-round utility guy (more on that later).  One additional note: some of my competitors know of this blog, and wanted me to note that this particular draft pick “was met with indifference” from the room.  Fair enough.
  • 15th Round (#176): Jarrod Parker SP-OAK (Yahoo #178, ADP #165): I had my heart set on Brett Anderson here: taken two picks ahead of me by Jamos, who hadn’t taken a single SP in the first 14 rounds and was now filling out his team and was swiping all my sleeper starters (see the 20th round for more of the same).  After losing Anderson, I was also looking at perhaps grabbing the surprising Josh Reddick here for a great utility bat; nope, grabbed just before me.  So I punted and took Oakland’s #2 starter instead of Oakland’s #1 starter.  Parker was good last year; 13-8, 3.47 ERA in his 23-yr old rookie season pitching in that massive park.  He should improve in 2013.
  • 16th Round (#185): Brandon League RP-LAD (Yahoo #220, ADP #208): You can’t really look at ranks versus draft value when it comes to chasing the last few decent closers.  League may have a ton of great bullpen competition for the Dodgers, but League also just signed a 3yr/$22.5M contract and you’d have to think he’s going to be closing for that kind of money.  As with Romo and Janssen, I’ll take the closer on a team projected to win 90 games and make the playoffs anyday.
  • 17th round (#200): Edinson Volquez SP-SD (Yahoo #713, ADP #316): Another odd case of wild ranking discrepancies; my starter ranks from sources outside of Yahoo had Volquez at about the 55th best pitcher out there.  I took him basically because he’s the best pitcher in San Diego, a cavern of a ball-park that usually shaves a point off of starter ERAs.  He isn’t that great, wasn’t that great last year, and may very well be the first player I drop after I look at the waiver wire versus prospects and/or position players I like.  But it always seems some random pitcher for San Diego puts up fantastic numbers year over year.
  • 18th Round (#209): Alexi Ogando SP/RP-Tex (Yahoo #224, ADP #199): I like the value pick here; I’ve had Ogando before; in 2011 he was a very good starter, and I’m expecting that performance again in 2013.  This could be a steal of a pick, grabbing his electric arm pitching as a starter for a playoff-contending team.  That being said, I was targeting Ross Detwiler here but he got snapped up a few picks ahead of me.

At this point in the draft, its getting late, the ranks and ADPs are long out the window.  I wanted one last  hitter, one last starter and/or possibly to take a shot for one of the remaining closers.  I wrote down three names I wanted: Brandon Belt, Homer Bailey and Shelby Miller.  Jamos bet me that I wouldn’t get but one of those three names and he was right.  As mentioned above, Jamos was waiting til the later rounds to grab starters and he nabbed Miller before I could.  Meanwhile someone else grabbed Bailey, forcing me to change up the whole late-round strategy.

  • 19th Round (#224): Brandon Belt 1B-SF (Yahoo #184, ADP #258): They say not to look at spring training numbers, but it is of note that Belt has now hit more homers in spring training than he did all of last season.  He’s long been on prospect and “up-and-comer” lists, but San Francisco has made it tough on him to get at-bats.  Entering 2013 though he’s the unquestioned starter at first for the Giants, no Aubrey Huff to steal games this year.   I targeted him starting in the mid-rounds as a great option for a late round utility guy and grabbed him.  Also under consideration here was Bailey (taken) and Alfonso Soriano (taken 2 picks ahead of me by homer-Cub fan Erwin, who probably took him as I joked that I was going to take him.  Bad on me; I probably bragged my way out of getting Soriano and his sneaky 32 homer/100 rbi production).
  • 20th Round (#233): Wade Miley SP-Ari (Yahoo #233, ADP #196): I gambled on Miller still being available, lost out on that gamble by 2 picks, and grabbed Miley instead; #83 Yahoo producer last year in a near-Rookie of the Year campaign.  Why is he so low in 2013??  I mean, guys with 125 ERA+’s don’t exactly grow on trees.  Nonetheless, I think he’s great value for the 20th round, getting the 2nd best starter on a team that many think could sneak up on the other teams in the NL West.
  • 21st Round (#248): Vinnie Pestano RP-CLE (Yahoo #263, ADP #307): After my Miller gambit failed, I was looking at Best Available Starters but they kept getting nabbed.  Jaime Garcia, gone.  Trevor Cahill gone.   I grabbed Pestano because, at least for moment, he’s the closer in Cleveland while Chris Perez is on the mend.   News reports today indicate that Perez has just started throwing for the first time since February; will Cleveland rush him back in a week’s time to be their opening day closer (unlikely) or will they give him a quick DL trip to gain some strength (more likely).  If Perez is active on opening day, I’ll dump Pestano and try to grab one of the closer-by-committee guys out there for teams that are starting without an established closer.  Or take a look at some of the middle infield choices out there to play some matchup games.

So, here’s your team by position:

  • C: Santana (1B eligible)
  • 1B: Davis, Belt
  • 2B: Weeks
  • SS: Espinosa (2B eligible)
  • 3B: Freese
  • OF: Kemp, Cespedes, Heyward
  • SP: Verlander, Darvish, Dickey, Medlen, Parker, Volquez, Ogando
  • RP: Romo, Janssen, League, Pestano

Team summary: Well, I really like my pitching.  I’ve got 4 “Aces,” among the 20 best guys in the league.  I’ve got 5 guys who should be opening day starters.  I’m happy with my closers for the rounds in which I got them and the teams they play for.  I like my outfield; I think I’ve got a ton of power and speed.  My infield is weak, and could be a big trouble spot for me.  I may have to go dumpster diving for a backup 3B if Freese sticks on the DL for any length of time.   I think I got carried away on the starters and should have forced myself to lay off of them in the 3rd-5th rounds and picked up middle infielders instead.  I’ve got great power potential; almost every guy on there is at least a 20 homer capable guy.  And i’ve got speed potential; all my OFs plus Weeks and Espinosa are 20-SB threats at least.

I don’t think i’m as confident in this team as I have been in years past, and looking at some of the other teams drafted I’m worried.  One of the guys who depended on autodraft has a fantastic team, well balanced up and down.  Which is a shame, because normally he drafts god-awful teams :-) .

Draft Summary:

Part of the reason I have so many starters is because I had targeted a number of these guys before the draft and felt that I had to take them.  I got guys like Dickey, Darvish, Medlen, Cespedes, Ike Davis, Carlos Santana and Belt who I had wanted before the draft.

I missed on some guys I really coveted; Encarnation, Batista, Goldschmidt, Zobrist, Scherzer, and Zimmermann were names I wanted but missed on.  I really, really wanted Prado this year but he went way earlier than I thought he would.  I really wanted younger guys Harvey and Miller in the later rounds but just missed on them.  I was also targeting Reddick and Morse in the teen rounds but they both went several rounds earlier than I thought they would.  And as I said earlier, I *really* wanted Harper in the 2nd round.  That was a disappointment.

I probably made a couple of mistakes, namely forgetting about Kyle Lohse, who signed a couple days before the draft and was still on the board in the very late rounds.   Jeremey Hellickson was available way late and I was surprised when I heard his name; could have grabbed him too.  And as discussed above I waited too long for Miller and Bailey.  Lastly next year i’m going to change the way I do running notes ahead of the draft; my ranking sheets were far different from Yahoos and I think it cost me (see the Volquez pick).

  • Best pick: Verlander in the 2nd round, four to seven spots after he should have been picked.
  • Worst Pick: Probably Volquez; I think I should have just followed my gut and taken one of the starters I wanted in that round instead of gambling.
  • First guys dropped: Probably Pestano when Perez comes back and then Volquez if he doesn’t start decently.
  • Best Upside/Chances of Overperforming: Ogando and Dickey.  Ogando could easily be a 15 game winner from the 18th round, while Dickey was the 5th best fantasy player last year and i got him in round 6.  That’s just crazy.
  • Worst Downside/Chances of Underperforming: Probably Cespedes and perhaps Medlen, maybe Weeks: Cespedes lost time to injuries in May and June, plays in a big park, plays in a tough division.  Nobody thinks Medlen can be the pitcher he was in 2012.

2 Responses to 'My 2013 Fantasy Baseball Team'

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  1. Really good write-up. I like your team a lot. Heyward and Darvish back to back were fantastic values and I like Weeks, Espi and League late as well.

    Sean

    29 Mar 13 at 11:45 am

  2. I can’t believe you read all that. Even I was embarassed at the word count (4300 and change) when i finished :-) But thank you.

    I’ve got a thing for starting pitchers … and I have a lot of them this year. Hoping to bulldoze the pitching categories and then squeak by with the hitting categories.

    Todd Boss

    29 Mar 13 at 11:50 am

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