Okay, okay, OKAY! Stop your giggling. So, I might’ve been here before, writing a similar post for the last 12 years. Well, listen, wise guy, Austin Riley is only 23 years old, so it couldn’t have been 12 years unless he was a sleeper in an Esports league. By the by, is Spanish-language Esports called DEsportes? Or dEsportes? Or Esportes? Or something else? My brain hurts thinking about this. You know what else makes my brain hurt? Eating ice cream too fast and not drafting Austin Riley and I’m all out of ice cream! What? You know exactly what I’m saying! I believe it was around August 15th, about fifteen days and/or halfway through the previous season, when I said something like, “Austin Riley can’t stop striking out, huh? Man and five ladies, he is bad,” then I looked away and went back in October to look at some guys. Grey Looks At Some Guys coming up next, a new special brought to you by the Hallmark Channel and For Eyes. Austin Riley’s strikeout rate was 30.8% in July, 29.3% in August and I wrote him off. Then, after the season, I went back and saw he had a 17.3% strikeout rate in September and I slowly looked both ways to see if anyone else was seeing what I was seeing. They weren’t! Yes, it’s a little goofy to break down what a hitter is doing with strikeout rates in such small samples, but last year was goofy, and we don’t have a ton to go on. Plus, this is a narrative we’ve been waiting for with Riley. He had plate discipline in the minors after he settled into a level, and now he’s finally had one full season in the majors (462 career at-bats) and the strikeouts are coming down. If that happens, well…So, what can we expect from Austin Riley for 2021 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?

First, I want to screenshot something for you:

Draw your attention to the xBA column. The most pitches seen and doing the most with them. Not being hurt by offspeed or breaking stuff like he was before, and killing fastballs year over year. Could be written off as a fluky final month, and, who knows, maybe it was, but his last two years in Triple-A saw batting averages of .282 and .293. .282 was fueled by a high BABIP, but the .293 number was what we’re seeing here. He eventually settles into a level and begins to hit.

In his last year in Triple-A, he also had a 20.1% strikeout rate. When looking at his plate discipline from last year, it shows more of the same. He cut his Swinging Strike rate, cut down on pitches swung at outside the zone and when he did swing, his contact went way up. His Contact% went from 63.2% to 72.5% year over year. Right now, the Braves have Travis d’Arnaud penciled into the cleanup spot, and The French Terminator may say, “Le be back,” but we’re smarter than that. He’s not actually good, c’mon. I’ll put money on it that at some point in 2021 Riley becomes the Braves’ cleanup hitter and breaks out in a huge way. Looking for a guy who is being drafted around 250th overall in some leagues who could be a top 50 hitter? Look no further (unless you want to see his projections). For 2021, I’ll give Austin Riley projections of 84/31/96/.277/2 in 582 ABs with a chance for more.

 
  1. Ante GALIC says:
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    Grey!!!

    Awesome fantasy-sleeper report!! Love Riley!

    a. Loved Riley last year too, he wasn’t great but I loved him. This year, though! It’ll be his year.

    b. MLB quote of the day for December 18, 2020

    1. Ronald Acuna Jr, born December 18, 1997

    ‘I was with Chipper Jones when he was eighteen. I was with Andruw Jones when he was sixteen. They were solid, just really talented ballplayers, with Chipper, of course, going to the Hall of Fame. But, this kid (Ronald Acuna Jr)? This kid’s talent is on a different level.’

    Atlanta Braves Manager Brian Snitker in USA Today) (Bob Nightengale, Best young player I’ve ever seen: Just 21 years old, Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr. looks like an all-time great, 08/26/2019)

    2. Moose Skowron, born December 18, 1930

    ‘Moose could flat-out hit … for average, and he had real power. People used to look at our lineup and concentrate on the guys in the middle of the order. Moose might have been batting sixth or seventh, but he made our lineup deep and more dangerous. You didn’t want to give him too much around the plate. He was like Yogi Berra, he could hit bad pitches out and beat you.’

    Teammate / Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle on MLB.com (Marty Noble, 04/27/2012, ‘Skowron, part of Yankees powerhouses, dies’, Source)

    3. Phil Cavarretta, died December 18, 2010

    ‘Phil Cavarretta would cut your heart out for a run the Cubs need.’

    Sportswriter Herb Graffis in Baseball Digest (September 1949, ‘He’d Cut Your Heart Out!’, Page 17)

    c. Have a nice weekend. I forgot last weekend, mea culpa.

    Cheers,
    Ante

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      A. Yup!

      B. Snitker’s not lying

      C. You too!

  2. NUX says:
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    Enjoying the NFBC $10 BB draft so far?

    I booted pitching a bit in this draft, which was prob a bad idea. But I see a rash of arm injuries coming in 2021. Age old question, if I expect arm injuries does that mean I need to push up or can wait a bit on pitching? And with only 4 Pitching slots, does that also mean I need to push up or can I wait a bit on pitching?

    Full disclosure, I’ve been gunning for Lance Lynn in the handful of these I’ve done, but the draft position sometimes can make that difficult if there are any others that are high on him for 2021. I enjoyed seeing you get your hands on your 2020 boo in Pete Alonso. And Ketel as well actually

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      I am! I like these, low effort and keeps me engaged with drafting — there are no waivers with these right? If not, then yeah I think you need decent pitching in these, maybe not top 5 SPs, but prolly a decent staff in general, right? I mean I’m feeling these leagues out still too, and if they cost more I wouldn’t be doing them…

      Alonso/Marte/Lynn are all guys I’m happily drafting again this year, yeah

      • NUX says:
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        Yep, I feel you, I think you could argue both sides on the pitching thing and with good reasons for both.

        Also, it depends on what type of league we do with these NFBC BBs. The one we are doing here, the Top 3 teams win.

        I prefer these drafts in the 2X-Double Up format where Top 5 Teams just get $20. But that’s because after doing like 20 of each last year, I cashed A LOT more and it made it worth the money and # of drafts with the 2X over the Top 3. You can take a lot less risk in those ones with a pitching staff and just scoop up a bunch of boring reliable guys and get by. Sometimes, I think that affects me when drafting the Top 3, bc I don’t jump at the pitching like I prob should. Anyways, Yarbro is an excellent example of someone I’ll have on nearly 2X- Double up team. And quite a few Top 3 ones when he slides a bit.

        Also, there are no waivers at all. Draft it and then check back in October.

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          That all makes sense, thanks for confirmation on no waivers, makes me want to start another immediately when this is done…For $10, can’t beat it — I think I won last year once and paid for ten of them, and I entered ten…maybe? Still good fun if it’s only a push on $

          • NUX says:
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            Yea that was the consensus among a handful of people I was drafting with, alot of people kinda broke even or slightly better than broke even. And everyone was pretty much just happy to use it for something to do during lockdown. Hard to say I’m out here tryinta make that money playing in a bunch of $10 leagues. Last year, I won enough of these where it kinda paid for my entries into a league or 2 for 2021.

            There is alotta time between now and spring training, so I’m sure we’ll generally have one or two of these going at all times for the next couple of months. I’ll be in touch for next one.

            • Grey

              Grey says:
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              Sweet! Keep in mind I don’t pay attention to the draft chat, if you’re organizing there

      • pinkman says:
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        Excited to see in your 2B rankings what you like about Ketel 1 again this year. Last season’s lack of power did not go down smooth for me.

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Nah, wasn’t a good year, but he was injured and it was a weird year

  3. Harley Earl says:
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    Holy smokes. You know I like Riley as much as anyone but this is a really optimistic and bold prediction!!! Man I hope you’re right because I own Riley in multiple leagues!

    I could see this happening but I could also see him turning into a turd bucket again and not even worthy a roster spot. His future seems so wide open. I’ll agree with you and say he’s figured it out!

    Good stuff. Definitely things to ponder here.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      He’s still so young, I have to think he turned some kind of corner late last year…My projections aren’t that far off from Steamer either

      • Harley Earl says:
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        I love it man!

        At 23, yeah, he’s so young and we may have seen him figure it out there. I remember posting on here when he got hot. He was on fire late. If he gets the cleanup spot in ATL with Freeman, Albies and Acuna ahead of him, his numbers could be HUGE for the next few years!!

        One thing I gotta admit, you’re pretty damn good at these sleeper posts. So I’m a believer when you say it with conviction!

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Thanks, appreciate it!

  4. Malicious Phenoms says:
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    Wacha to Tampa. Immediately becomes comeback player of the year and early CY Young fav. Right?!? lol

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Haha, yeah, but nah, smiley emoji

  5. Will says:
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    Dang it Grey now I’ll never get Riley at 240 or so in the draft…

    “shakes fist”

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Haha, my bad!

  6. Philip says:
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    Gray (or anyone else),

    How would you rank the following sluggers: Miguel Sano, Rowdy Tellez, Jared Walsh, Franmil Reyes, Austin Riley?

    Assuming position doesn’t matter, just statistics.

    Whom would you most want in a dynasty league?

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      My rankings come out in January — prolly Riley, Franmil, Sano, Walsh

      • Will says:
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        Love it when your rankings start coming out. It’s like the official start of fantasy baseball season!

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Appreciate you!

      • Philip says:
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        Thanks, Grey! In a keeper league, would you trade Sonny Gray for Soroka and Riley?

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Hmm…It’s close, I think I would, but depends on league size and how long you can keep, etc

          • philip says:
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            Appreciate it. It’s forever keeper with 20 teams.

            • Grey

              Grey says:
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              Yeah, I would then

  7. Dave D says:
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    A lot of this is just about potential and timing. Some guys in the past you wrote about only partially clicked and others need a couple more years. Some fizzle. Among the guys of the last few years I can think of offhand: Hunter Renfroe, Ian Happ, Scott Kingery, Lewis Brinson, Ryan McMahon, Cedric Mullins, there are flashes of potential but all maybe still need more time to judge. Sleepers are just that: they may wake up or just keep snoring.

    • NUX says:
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      Adbert Alzolay. 2021 darling. Book it Dave!

      • Dave D says:
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        Ha! I’ll take note, Nux!

        Btw, do you follow hockey?

        • NUX says:
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          A little bit, but not as much as when some friends had Devils season tickets.

          • Dave D says:
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            NFBC now had $25 hockey leagues (points) that might be worth a venture for you or some others here. That may be especially true if baseball is delayed again. If there is anytime that fantasy sports has been truly a lifestyle need, I would say now indeed is…

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        You’re not the first one saying Adbert Alzolay

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Or maybe you are and saying it again…Someone was talking him up about a month back

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Ha, yup! I kinda would go in on all those guys you mention at their price, except maybe Brinson, though prolly a price question

  8. NUX says:
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    Love the Riley outlook here, he is def a target for 2021 for me. I had also mentioned Josh Naylor previously. And pitching wise I’m all about Jordan Montgomery right now in early drafts. In the draft we are doing together now, I went with a Dejong/McCutchen pair at the turn and then JoMont did not come back to me at the end of the 17th round as I had expected, which I’m still bummed about. As I mentioned, not thrilled with my arms at this point:

    Flaherty
    Kyle Hendricks
    McCullers
    Urquidy
    K-H Kim
    Aroldis Chapman
    Edwin Diaz

    Only need 4 of them on a weekly basis, so could be fine if both closers stick and I get 2 or 3 saves during weeks when my other arms suck

    • NUX says:
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      And by 2 or 3 saves, I mean to say- if either Chappy or Diaz gets 2 or 3 in a given week they are prob in my starting lineup. Since its points, we don’t give a shizz about the saves stat. And I think that’s why sometimes studs with jobs slide in drafts like these. I don’t aim for closers, but sometimes I need another arm and prefer one of these guys over what’s sitting there at the time. I should likely have gone with Patrick Corbin or Paddack where I took them in this current draft we’re doing. But my point still stands!

      • Dave D says:
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        No player is a greater wildcard than Edwin Diaz, IMO. Best of luck with that mercurial arm…

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          I don’t like Edwin in regular roto, but in Best Ball he can have a few good weeks (hopefully)

        • NUX says:
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          In a Fantrax BB, I grabbed Edwin Diaz when he slid (pick #132). And later backed him up with Trevor May in like the last round. Totally worth it for me there around pick 480 or so. Its Decemeber but I feel like I have the Mets saves.

          In the NFBC BB 10 league I’m talking about above where I grabbed Edwin, it was around pick #132 again. And like Grey said, its bestball. And I am certainly not paying up for any of these guys in a standard roto league at all.

          These NFBC BB formats kinda screws with things a bit

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Not sure how I feel on Flaherty/Kim, but I like the others, and like you said you only need so many each week

      • Harley Earl says:
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        what’s wrong with Flaherty and Kim? I love them both!!!

        You been hating on my boy Kim since I mentioned him last February! Why you gotta be such a hater???!!! You Hater!

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Kim had like a 5-something K/9, pretty meh

          • Harley Earl says:
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            Yeah, he’s not a big K guy for sure. But he’s solid in the ratios! I’ll take him!

  9. pinkman says:
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    I couldn’t help but LOL at the freudian slip by Rotowire in the news blurb for Brent Honeywell from last night:

    “Brent Honeywell underwent surgery on his right elbow on Wednesday, but is expected to be ready for the start of the 2021 surgery.”

    Poor guy- I cannot have faith that this guy will ever reach the majors and be effective…

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Haha, I detect no lies

      • Harley Earl says:
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        I held Honeywell for 3 years. Finally dumped him at the start of 2020 when he got hurt again. I sincerely hope he makes it and has a great career. Kid has been living a nightmare since getting to the cusp of the majors. Life has not been fair. Hope life gives him something back.

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Yeah, hopefully he’s okay to pitch at some point

  10. DonnieB says:
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    Need 8 keepers in a 12 team roto auction. Budget is $300. Team won last year but had to drop 5-6 studs. My options are as follows and their price for one or two more years:
    Biggio $10 for 2 years
    Riley $10 for 2 years
    T Turner $56 for 2 years
    Swanson $4 for 2 years
    Conforto $18 for 2 years
    I Happ $10 for 2 years
    C Walker $8 for 2 years
    D Carlson $10 for 2 years
    C Burnes $10 for 2 years
    E Diaz $10 for 2 years
    D May $10 for 2 years
    Z Gallen $23 for 2 years
    J Musgrove $10 for 2 years
    Trout $72 for 1 year
    Thanks and thanks for your Riley post today. I like him. You are the best!

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Biggio, Trea, Swanson, Conforto, Burnes, May, Gallen, Trout — May or Happ is closer
      Thanks!

      • DonnieB says:
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        If you thought you could get Trout back for about the same money,are you saying you like Ian Happ over Carlson, Diaz and the others? Thanks.

        • DonnieB says:
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          Same with Gallen at $23.

          • Grey

            Grey says:
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            You think you can get Gallen back? Hmm…I guess Diaz, but none of the others are really great value

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Yeah, Happ would be next

  11. Space Wrangler says:
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    I was just offered Austin Riley for Jeimer Candelario. 16-team roto. Dynasty.

    Should I accept and go buy myself some ice cream?

    Thanks.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Yes, take it and yourself for ice cream

      • Space Wrangler says:
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        Cherry Garcia here I come.

        Thanks man.

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          No problem

  12. Harley Earl says:
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    Hey Grey

    Gotta ask, does Alex Reyes make your sleeper parade this year? He was pretty good and way under the radar in 2020. Word is he’ll likely be a starter. But even if he’s in the bullpen, he might be their closer. Not worthy of a sleeper? I think there’s potential for that breakout now that he’s been in the league and finally healthy.

    • Dave D says:
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      Alex Reyes=healthy? Are you sure that’s not wishful thinking?

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Nah, Alex Reyes is not a sleeper

      • Harley Earl says:
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        Healthy = Definitely wishful thinking.

        Not a sleeper? Oh yeah? Watch and see! He’s going to be set the world on fire!

        Go Cards!

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Haha

    • Will says:
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      I was just about to post that. I think Grey took Adell in a few drafts already this season right?

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        Yeah, hopefully Adell’s up by June, but it’s prolly a throwaway pick at this point

        • Will says:
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          I think people forget he started out 2019 in high A ball before moving to AA where he hit well, then to AAA where he did not hit well and struck out at a 33% rate. I was surprised LAA called him up last season tbh. He needs at least another half a season at AAA.

          • Grey

            Grey says:
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            Since it’s a Draft Champions league, I might be able to get by without him until June, if he comes up and hits then

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Yeah, Adell sucks and that was a bad pick, hate losing a guy before games even start…Riley vs. Dozier — I hadn’t done my own rankings yet, I might like Riley in front of Dozier, not sure — I do like Dozier tho, in general

  13. Smitty says:
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    What I saw from Riles in the playoffs was plus bat speed, like the jolt off of Treinen (got out in a hurry) I think he’s starting to put better swings on pitches, and becoming more consistent. Increasing his quality AB’s could lead to meeting the lofty projection, Bold indeed!
    Braves have a good chance to return to the playoffs and could surprise. Thanks Grey, have a great day

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Agreed, really Riley (poet?) looks like he’s finally developed as he was expected… You too!

  14. The Great Knoche says:
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    Had Murphy queued up next, but already had 2 catchers

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      I was gonna wait to last round for 2nd catcher, but I was doing something else, and catcher was easiest thing to take without paying attention

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