Top 200 Prospects: The Process and Introduction

Tomorrow, we’ll be officially revealing our own version of the Top 100 prospects list that has become a staple of the baseball community. However, with more than 100 prospects receiving Future Value grades of 50 or higher, we decided to not arbitrarily cut off the list at 100 names, and ordered every prospect who achieved that FV score: 142 players in all. Because the Top 142 prospects sounds a little strange, however, I also included a secondary tier of unranked-but-still-listed prospects whose FVs fall on the higher side of 45; these are guys who weren’t too far off the list themselves, and in many cases, will be strong candidates for next year’s list.

So, tomorrow, we’ll unveil the FanGraphs Top 200 Prospect list. Today, though, I wanted to give you a little bit of background on how I arrived at these grades and rankings, as well as preemptively answering some questions that may arise about certain types of players.

Team Prospect Lists:
RangersRockiesD’BacksTwinsAstros
CubsRedsPhilliesRaysMets
PadresMarlinsNationalsRed SoxWhite Sox
OriolesYankeesBraves

Scouting Explained: Introduction, Hitting Pt 1 Pt 2 Pt 3 Pt 4 Pt 5 Pt 6

Cuban Coverage: Latest on Yoan Moncada and Latest on Four Notable Cubans

What The Tool Grades Mean

If you’re dropping into my minor league prospects rankings for the first time, thanks for coming, but there’s also a few things I should probably explain so that the list doesn’t look like gibberish to you. I use the 20-80 scouting scale, the same grading scale that pro scouts use to grade players at every level of baseball. It grades a player’s traditional tools — hit, hit for power, speed, fielding, throwing, each of a pitcher’s pitches, and his command — against major league average for each tool. Average is 50, above average is 55, below average is 45, plus is 60, plus-plus is 70 and 80 is just called 80 because it’s so rare and special that it doesn’t need another name; think Giancarlo Stanton‘s power, Billy Hamilton‘s speed, or Randy Johnson‘s fastball. A 60 or better off-speed pitch is the standard for being called a “swing and miss” pitch; you need two 60 pitches and at least an average third pitch and command to be a #3 starter, for example.

If you want to go into further depth, then I’d suggest checking out the Scouting Explained links above, where I go into more detail about how scouts do what they do. These tool grades aren’t directly applicable to stats in every case — speed is just speed, not the ability to steal bases — but I go into much more detail on each player and project his potential big league numbers, his ETA to reach that level, a risk grade and more on the team prospect lists, linked to above and in each player’s capsule on the list. Since there are so many players that have tools that are 45 or 50, I use a + to denote 47.5 (fringe-average or fringy) and 52.5 (solid-average), or the half-grades between these most common grades, 45, 50 and 55.

Using the 20-80 Scouting Scale

To convert these all-encompassing Future Value (FV) grades into something you can wrap your arms around, take a look at these scales, taken from the introduction to the Scouting Explained series

Hitter Starting Pitcher Relief Pitcher WAR
80 Top 1-2 #1 Starter —- 7.0
75 Top 2-3 #1 —- 6.0
70 Top 5 #1/2 —- 5.0
65 All-Star #2/3 —- 4.0
60 Plus #3 High Closer 3.0
55 Above Avg #3/4 Mid Closer 2.5
50 Avg Regular #4 Low CL/High SU 2.0
45 Platoon/Util #5 Low Setup 1.5
40 Bench Swing/Spot SP Middle RP 1.0
35 Emergency Call-Up Emergency Call-Up Emergency Call-Up 0.0
30 *Organizational *Organizational *Organizational -1.0

* “Organizational” is the term scouts use to describe a player that has no major league value; he’s just there to fill out a minor league roster and be a good influence on the prospects, though sometimes org players can outplay that projection.

** I didn’t continue down to 20 on either scale since it’s almost never relevant for players that I’ll be writing about or any of their tools, other than speed for big fat sluggers or selected Molina brothers.

The FV grade primarily takes into account upside, likelihood to reach that potential, and distance to the big leagues. So, for a big league ready player with relatively little risk that I peg as a 55 FV — Rays RF Steven Souza, for example — this means I think his most likely peak season(s) in the big leagues will be +2.5 to + 2.9 wins, with a relatively equal chance of his peak being a notch higher or lower than that. Because of injuries and general attrition, I tend to knock pitchers down one notch FV-wise from where their report would suggest, which scouts also do.

It’s a little harder to explain with lower minors players, but take Nationals RHP Reynaldo Lopez as an example. If you’re a GM looking to trade Souza — let’s say because he’s blocked at the big league level and is ready for regular for playing time — who might need to clear a roster spot anyway, and you’d like to make a one-for-one trade for a player with more risk/reward, then Lopez might be considered an equivalent. His most likely peak season is also +2.5 to +2.9 wins, but the range of possibilities is much wider, he’s still years from making the big leagues, and he could end up being nothing of big league value or he could turn into a +5 WAR frontline starter. Lopez may have more upside, but FV incorporates risk as well.

This chart is a little less useful for the list, but people always want to know how many home runs a power grade converts to, so here’s the scale scouts use to determine various individual tool grades, taken from the same article.

Tool Is Called Fastball Velo Batting Avg Homers RHH to 1B LHH to 1B 60 Yd Run
80 80 97 .320 40+ 4.00 3.90 6.3
75 96 .310 35-40 4.05 3.95 6.4
70 Plus Plus 95 .300 30-35 4.10 4.00 6.5
65 94 .290 27-30 4.15 4.05 6.6
60 Plus 93 .280 23-27 4.20 4.10 6.7
55 Above Avg 92 .270 19-22 4.25 4.15 6.8
50 Avg 90-91 .260 15-18 4.30 4.20 6.9-7.0
45 Below Avg 89 .250 12-15 4.35 4.25 7.1
40 88 .240 8-12 4.40 4.30 7.2
35 87 .230 5-8 4.45 4.35 7.3
30 86 .220 3-5 4.50 4.40 7.4

The last three are for speed, running from home to first, or a showcase-style timed-run in the outfield. Notice that the hitting tool grade only refers to batting average, so some prospects with strong plate discipline — Jesse Winker and Michael Conforto, for example — are rated higher than you’d expect given their pure hit tool grade. The hit tool is just meant to grade the ability to make contact and the raw tools (bat speed, eye-hand coordination, etc). I go into much more detail about how scouts do this and what it means in the six-part hit tool series linked to at the top of the article.

The Limitations of Prospect Lists

People like reading these lists and this is roughly the time of year these lists are normally made; that’s why this thing exists. Much like mock drafts, there are limitations to what I can tell you via a list and there’s also a false sense of precision this creates, but it’s a popular and easy format to dispense information. Try not to get too bent out of shape if you think some guy that’s 23rd should be 45th; that is so much closer to being the exact same thing than many people realize.

You might notice that there are runs where there’s five or more pitchers or hitters in a row. I could split them all up and never have more than one or two of the same type of player in a row, but players do tend to get grouped together, and when they’re almost exactly the same, it makes sense to rank them next to each other. You might point to the glut of similar shortstops in the 60-90 range and I’ll admit you could rank those guys in whatever order you want. There is a run of pitchers with injury or command questions in the 54-76 range and potential mid-rotation starters in the 17-37 range that I had a lot of trouble separating, shuffling the order a number of times. If there is some “correct” way to rank these players, it would likely include more runs from a certain position like this than you’d expect.

Another limit of this list is exactly what it’s measuring. Players with 150 plate appearances or 50 innings pitched or more are not eligible, and players are ranked with the team that currently has them, with no notation to which team originally signed/drafted them. So, a team like the Rays that doesn’t trade away prospects and only trades for them will naturally be rewarded by this process, while the Tigers — who have been much more successful than Tampa at drafting and signing players — often trade their prospects once they have enough trade value to acquire a good big leaguer, so Detroit is inherently penalized by this process.

Young big league teams with lots of controllable talent will usually be darlings of these lists for years, then when the players get to the big leagues, it leaves a hole; we aren’t measuring young talent with this list, just rookie-eligible young talent. I’ll seek to remedy this in a number of ways over the next few weeks by adjusting this list for original signing organization and doing this same process for every big league player so we can have a more complete view of the talent at all levels of an organization.

How I Made the List

A couple weeks ago I went into detail about the process for making the list. The short version is the order prospects are put on the team lists might be different in this list because I talked to a wider group of people and collected more varied opinions. In general, if you see a tool-grade change in one place that disagrees with another place on the site, that means I likely got newer and better information and adjusted my rankings accordingly. As of today, this reflects everything I know in the best way I know how to consider it.

The general approach to the list is to try to reflect industry-wide trade value, via valuing upside, likelihood to reach it and distance to the big leagues, along with a few more, less-important factors. I’ve scouted for teams in the past and have seen the vast majority of these players before, often over multiple years, so my opinion is also folded in.

You can look at making this list like college admissions: there’s a cold, objective approach where you just line up qualifications and score everything. There’s a more subjective “Which player do you want?, Which player do you believe in?” that I try to balance. A couple players are ranked using the objective approach, where they would be if they had a huge 2015 season. Very few people would rank them that high right now, but I have conviction they’ll have a huge season, so I basically took a leap of faith six months in advance.

The Best Prospects Not on the List

Since I know you guys will ask and I’m prepared to answer, I’ll run down the top Cuban and domestic amateurs players and where they’d land in the top 200. Second baseman Hector Olivera turns 30 in a few months, so he isn’t eligible for the list since he’s so different than the guys here. This is also why I didn’t include Red Sox center fielder Rusney Castillo, who was on the Red Sox List, since I’d then also have to include Diamondbacks left fielder Yasmany Tomas and Pirates shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, and they don’t really fit on this list.

I won’t rank the best young Japanese professional talents or players still in Cuba since there’s still a lot of time or effort before they become threats to land on this list. Still, the best of that group is 20-year-old 6-foot-4 righty Shohei Otani with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan’s NPB. I recently talked to a scout who said Otani is a more physical Yu Darvish who throws even harder. Otani has hit 101 mph, has the stuff and command to be a frontline starter and would be comfortably in this top 10. Still, he won’t be available to major league teams for years due to the posting process, and his timeline is similar to Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Nineteen-year-old Cuban free agent 2B/3B/CF Yoan Moncada would be eighth, just behind Lucas Giolito and 18-year-old Florida high school shortstop Brendan Rodgers is the current favorite to go No. 1 overall in the draft. He’d fit in the 32nd range. Eighteen-year-old LHP Brady Aiken went No. 1 overall last year to the Houston Astros but didn’t sign and will be in this year’s draft, though he hasn’t picked a school yet (rumors are he’ll end up at IMG Post-Grad with Jacob Nix). Aiken would fit 46th overall. 21-year-old Duke University RHP Michael Matuella is a wild card who has No. 1 ability but has a very short track record of elite stuff and performance. He would be at No. 51, while a comparable talent, 18 year-old Cuban defector RHP Yadier Alvarez, would fit at No. 58.

Twenty-one-year-old Cuban free agent second baseman Andy Ibanez would be in the 143 to 200 group as a 45+ FV. I could place a couple more draft prospects but they’d likely fit in that last group with Ibanez now, with a chance a few emerge this spring, along with the obvious possibility that one of the top three prospects regress.

A Couple Last Notes

I link to many of the videos below, but the FanGraphs YouTube page has over 600 videos of players from every level of baseball, taken from the traditional scouting angles. I also do a podcast each week; here’s last week’s episode where I talked mostly about my recent trip to the Dominican Republic.

Once I finish all 30 teams’ lists, we’ll have a handy sortable database with all the rankings and tool grades you find on the site. Until then, I’ve also added the tool grades you see below on each player’s page. That’s a good landing spot for information on each player, with links to recent articles with more information than you’ll find here — like ETA and risk. Also, once I post all 30 lists, we’ll do final organizational rankings.

Alright, that seems like a long enough introduction. As one final tease before the list goes up tomorrow, new FanGraphs writer Sean Dolinar created some visual breakdowns of the of the demographics of the list, which we’ve included below. Check back tomorrow morning for all 200 names, and I’ll be hosting a Tuesday edition of my Prospect chat to answer questions about the list. Hopefully this tides you over until then.

Top-200-Prospects-Team-Grid

Top-200-Prospects-Position

Top-200-Prospects-Distribution



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Kiley McDaniel has worked in the scouting departments of the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates and has written for ESPN, among other outlets. Follow him on twitter for real-time thoughts on the players he’s seeing and hacky attempts at humor.


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themarksman13
Member
themarksman13
1 year 3 months ago

Where would Cuban pitcher, Vladimir Gutierrez be ranked? top-125?

Phillies113
Member
Member
1 year 3 months ago

Phillies predictions:

60 FV – JP Crawford
55 FV – Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola
45 FV – Phillie Phanatic

Brad
Guest
Brad
1 year 3 months ago
Phillies113
Member
Member
1 year 3 months ago

I know. Mostly, I just wanted to make the Phillie Phanatic joke.

Mascot HOF
Guest
Mascot HOF
1 year 3 months ago

45 for a first ballot mascot HOFer? Your scouting eye leaves little to be desired.

Kevin Goldstein
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Kevin Goldstein
1 year 3 months ago

I assume the 45+ is Efflin

Arte Moreno
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Arte Moreno
1 year 3 months ago

Miami and Detroit, pffffffft.

vince
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vince
1 year 3 months ago

I have a feeling this is a dumb question but, did you do write-ups for every team or only the 18 that are listed in the intro?

Brad
Guest
Brad
1 year 3 months ago

Only the 18 so far. He said he has 3-4 more teams ready to write, and that they’d be coming out after the top 200 list.

Micah Stupak
Member
1 year 3 months ago

The Tigers report could fit on Instagraphs. Or maybe a comment on another team’s analysis. Or maybe just a tweeted emoticon.

JP Yetman
Guest
JP Yetman
1 year 3 months ago

Only the 18 listed so far, he has the rest on the way

Sandlapper Spike
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

Would it be fair to say there is a serious paucity of catching prospects in the top 200? I assume (perhaps wrongly) that a fair number of the players listed at shortstop will eventually play 2B/3B/CF, and that some 3B will wind up in the outfield or first base, etc., so that a lot of the other positions will “even out”. That seems unlikely to happen with catchers, though, especially as some of them will wind up at 1B/LF.

Wall Five
Guest
Wall Five
1 year 3 months ago

Maybe it’s just me, but this style of ranking feels hugely specific for something that everyone gets wrong a lot.

Buns
Guest
Buns
1 year 3 months ago

Translation: I appreciate Mr. McDaniel’s thorough approach; I wonder if he is the most well organized human.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 3 months ago

I think these lists tend to get the opposite complaint.

“You ranked Mr. X (45 overall) behind the very similar Mr. Y (40 overall)? Credibility lost.”

Orsulakfan
Guest
Orsulakfan
1 year 3 months ago

On the Orioles’ write-up it has both Bundy and Harvey as 60-grade prospects, but in your chart above it says that the Orioles only have one 60-grade prospect. Am I misreading something? Or are the values in the individual team lists different from the 200 prospects list?

bdsparty32
Member
bdsparty32
1 year 3 months ago

“The short version is the order prospects are put on the team lists might be different in this list because I talked to a wider group of people and collected more varied opinions. In general, if you see a tool-grade change in one place that disagrees with another place on the site, that means I likely got newer and better information and adjusted my rankings accordingly. As of today, this reflects everything I know in the best way I know how to consider it.”

everdiso
Member
everdiso
1 year 3 months ago

“This is also why I didn’t include Red Sox center fielder Rusney Castillo, who was on the Red Sox List, since I’d then also have to include Diamondbacks left fielder Yasmany Tomas and Pirates shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, and they don’t really fit on this list.”

this is a strange sentence. sounds like you really wanted to include castillo for some reason, but only realized that it made no sense to include that kind of player when you looked at any other team.

btw, are you going to update the D’backs list to include tomas? is kang going to be on the pirates list? or is the red sox list going to be the only list that gets boosted with a non-eligible player?

LukeNalooshe
Member
LukeNalooshe
1 year 3 months ago

Who cares.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
1 year 3 months ago

Seriously. Working the refs on a top prospects list… people do realize that these lists don’t determine how good their favorite team’s farm system is, right?

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
1 year 3 months ago

By the anger that these lists generate, I assume that they are binding and that playoff berths are determined by power rankings.

Prove me wrong, kids. Prove me wrong.

soaktherich
Guest
soaktherich
1 year 3 months ago

Obviously Kiley, who grew up in Tampa and worked professionally as a scout for the Yanks and Orioles, is biased towards the Red Sox. Just like all of them!

everdiso
Member
everdiso
1 year 3 months ago

I’m surprised that, given all the praise for the detailed and stringent rule based system Kiley has set up here, that we wouldn’t care that the rules were applied consistently.

MJ
Guest
MJ
1 year 3 months ago

Thanks for explaining the process, looking forward to the list. A few years ago Shintaro Fujinami was considered on par with Otani out of highschool – is this still the case or has Otani separated himself? how would Fujinami rank among tomorrow’s list to you if you had to guess? are there other young NPB players that are of similar high-end talent?

sandwitchman
Guest
sandwitchman
1 year 3 months ago

After reading this article I can’t stop saying LEGIT. This article is LEGIT. LEGIT LEGIT LEGIT LEGIT FV 80 !!!

Gerry Sinefelt
Guest
Gerry Sinefelt
1 year 3 months ago

“Sandwitchman?” More like “SuckUpToKileyMan.” What’s up with that?

Fletcher
Guest
Fletcher
1 year 3 months ago

Kiley, I really enjoyed your podcast with Cistulli about your adventures in the Dominican. Thank you for doing it.

I have a question about Julio Urias. What do you see his ceiling as being (or even a comparable pitcher) and why werent more teams interested in him when he was originally signed? A 16 yr old as advanced as him and it seemed like only the Dodgers knew about him or at least strongly considered him. How does that happen? Position players I can understand missing on them or having them develop late. But Urias only signed for $450,000. I would have thought a 15 yr old pitching in the Mexican League would have brought more attention? Is there not as good of scouting going on in Mexico as say the DR or South America?

mattsd
Guest
mattsd
1 year 3 months ago

Urias signed for an undisclosed amount that BA estimated at 1.8 million. Only a quarter of it counted against the international cap, though.

Spencer21
Guest
Spencer21
1 year 3 months ago

Not according to this article:

http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/dodger-report/post/_/id/8934/dodgers-17-year-old-prospect-dazzles

“The Dodgers found Urias, who is from Culiacan, on the same trip to Mexico that landed them Yasiel Puig. Scout Logan White decided to fly to Oaxaca after watching Puig’s workout in Mexico City to take a look at some players from the Mexican league. Urias was 15 years old at the time and White saw him and remembers thinking, “My goodness, he has got a shot to be something special.”

The Dodgers signed him for $450,000, most of which went to the Mexican team, the day he turned 16. Other teams had been scared off by Urias’ droopy left eyelid, the result of a tumor he had removed as a child. Teams worried he couldn’t see out of the eye, which isn’t the case”

Sean
Guest
Sean
1 year 3 months ago

Saxon is a pretty bad Dodger source. No way Urias went for under a million when teams thought he was #1 or 2 best IFA pitcher. Also what is 1/4 of 1.8 million? 1/4 of $450,000 would be well below market. Pirates offered him a contract the year before LA for more than that if I’m not mistaken.

Bat
Guest
Bat
1 year 3 months ago

Thanks Kiley.

I am REALLY looking forward to this!

Fergie348
Guest
Fergie348
1 year 3 months ago

This is simply awesome work for a free resource. Thanks Kiley..

soaktherich
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

Dude, keep it down! More comments like that and it’ll ruin it for the rest of us cheapskates!

Jim Lahey
Guest
Jim Lahey
1 year 3 months ago

NO list?… No.. list??? What a tease..

Only Glove, No Love
Guest
Only Glove, No Love
1 year 3 months ago

Fantastic information. Please keep up the good work.

PS. The only thing holding you back is an almost total lack of autistic tendencies. Not sayin’. Just sayin’.

Ghostdawg
Guest
Ghostdawg
1 year 3 months ago

Great work as always. Can’t wait for the full list. From what I can parse, it looks like Bryant & Buxton are the only two FV 70’s on the list,and by the infographic it seems that you raised Addison Russell to a 65 FV since the Cubs prospect list came out originally…with Soler & Schwarber following as the two 60 FV players, and Almora as the one 55 FV. However though you raised Russell, you downgraded the two former 55 pitchers from the Cubs list (Edwards & Underwood) down to join P. Johnson as FV 50’s. I’m assuming that the three 45+’s from the Cubs are Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, and Dan Vogelbach….although in my opinion Jimenez, Caratini, Stinnet, Sands, Tseng, and Blackburn all have a case for top 200 without too much stretch of the imagination.

Eddy
Guest
Eddy
1 year 3 months ago

Excellent post. I’m familair with the 20-80 scale, but to see what WAR, HR, mph, etc they all translate too is awesome. Saving this page for future reference.

Props to Sean for that first chart too. Very easy to interpret, and easy to appreciate how few prospects are projected to be superstars. Also, heartbreaking because I’m a Marlins fan.

soaktherich
Guest
soaktherich
1 year 3 months ago

I get that there are way more SS than 2B and way more RF and CF than LF but is 1B really such a hand-me-down position that real (legit) prospects only ever end up there after flunking out of 3B or OF? A good defensive 1B with the appropriate corner bat can be a great asset to a team.

Cracking Chang
Guest
Cracking Chang
1 year 3 months ago

200 Prospect List…good move

pft
Guest
pft
1 year 3 months ago

Thats pretty cool. What do you think of ranking by WAR instead of count, using your 60-3 WAR, 55-2.5 WAR. Examples Yankees would sum up to 15 WAR with a count of 7 while Houston with the same count sums to 17 WAR

Cracking Chang
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

Phillies, chalk full of promising prospects….time for Ruben to hit the phones

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
1 year 3 months ago

Awesome, awesome stuff. I love how you spell out the limitations and caveats of the lists, even if it may be just to head off any potential bitching in Friday’s chat.

cs3
Member
cs3
1 year 3 months ago

This intro is packed with more great info than most people entire list.
Great stuff!

miles
Guest
miles
1 year 3 months ago

So it seems like maybe….. the top of the scale is 70, but sometimes a player is “off-the-charts” good at this or that, and that’s what you call an 80. If this is true, then we can say Billy Hamilton turns it up to 11 on the basepaths. Or Joey Gallo turns it up to 11 in batting practice. Can we make that a thing? I think that should be a thing. (I don’t know why I’m using plural first person. It just happens sometimes.)

CJ
Guest
CJ
1 year 3 months ago

I loved this and there’s a lot of great information here. One thing I’ve always wondered is how variable ratings are for prospects in the low minors. 142 prospects seems like a low number for current minor-leaguers that will become 50 prospects in the future. Am I correct in assuming that a good portion of prospects gain a grade or two as the range of what they could possibly be starts to narrow?

:syas JC CJ
Guest
:syas JC CJ
1 year 3 months ago

I hated this and there’s not a lot of great information here. One thing I’ve never wondered is how variable ratings are for prospects in the low minors. 142 prospects seems like a high number for current minor-leaguers that will become top 50 prospects in the future. Am I wrong in assuming that a good portion of the prospects gain a grade or two as the range what they could possibly be starts to narrow?

senor_mike
Guest
senor_mike
1 year 3 months ago

Syndergaard downgraded from 65 to 60 huh?

francis
Guest
francis
1 year 3 months ago

When I see a rating like 50/60, what do the 50 and 60 represent ?

Is 40/50 better or worse than a 20/60, or just different, and how ?

francis
Guest
francis
1 year 3 months ago

Never mind. I found the explanatory link.

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 3 months ago

Urias over Correa – I know someone else who said the same thing.

anon
Guest
anon
1 year 3 months ago

This is incredible Kiley! You are the new king of MiLB evaluations! I don’t think people realize how well you have described such a complex process. THIS IS INCREDIBLY APPRECIATED, keep it up!

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