Archive for January, 2017

FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 1/31/17

4:22
Paul Swydan:

What was your favorite new Netflix show of 2016?

Stranger Things (55.4% | 117 votes)
 
The Get Down (0.9% | 2 votes)
 
Luke Cage (6.1% | 13 votes)
 
The Crown (7.1% | 15 votes)
 
The OA (1.4% | 3 votes)
 
Other (6.6% | 14 votes)
 
I don’t have/watch Netflix (20.3% | 43 votes)
 
Don’t make me choose! (1.8% | 4 votes)
 

Total Votes: 211
4:26
Paul Swydan:

Which team currently pegged for 74-79 wins in our Expected Standings do you think is most likely to make the playoffs?

Orioles (22.1% | 56 votes)
 
Rockies (49.0% | 124 votes)
 
Dbacks (3.5% | 9 votes)
 
A’s (3.1% | 8 votes)
 
Royals (7.1% | 18 votes)
 
Twins (0.7% | 2 votes)
 
Braves (3.1% | 8 votes)
 
None of them (10.6% | 27 votes)
 
More than one of them (0.3% | 1 vote)
 

Total Votes: 253
4:28
Paul Swydan:

Which of the following center fielders has Mike Trout NOT already passed on the career WAR leaderboard?

Kirby Puckett (16.8% | 39 votes)
 
Bernie Williams (19.8% | 46 votes)
 
Hack Wilson (14.6% | 34 votes)
 
Johnny Damon (9.4% | 22 votes)
 
Torii Hunter (15.9% | 37 votes)
 
Mike Cameron (23.2% | 54 votes)
 

Total Votes: 232
9:00
Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

9:01
+ison Russell: Hendricks in the 14th; Giolito in the 23rd; Mazara in the 26th (26 rounds, rd picked is the cost to keep). Pick 2.

9:01
Paul Swydan: Hendricks and Mazara

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Where the Tigers Have Been Just an Absolute Mess

Earlier today, ESPN published the latest Sam Miller article. The article was in part about the nature of modern-day statistical records, but it was also in large part about Victor Martinez. Specifically, it was in large part about how Victor Martinez has been a dreadful baserunner. Excellent hitter! Dreadful baserunner. Pick your metric, and it’ll agree. Martinez has supplied his teams runs by getting on base, but once he’s gotten that far, he’s been an easy net negative.

Miller is right about all the variables that go into baserunning stats. Stats can’t know all the conditions under which a baserunning event takes place, so sometimes the numbers are misleading. If you’re a runner who stops at third on a double, maybe the outfielder just has a cannon for an arm. If, instead, you score, maybe the outfielder is Khris Davis. No two plays are exactly alike, so, as with any stat, you prefer a sample as big as you can get.

Let’s talk about a big sample, then. A six-year sample, covering not an individual player, but an entire team. This is certainly related to Victor Martinez. When it’s come to baserunning, the Tigers have been a disaster.

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Velocity and the Remaining Free Agent Pitchers

Baseball has an obsession with velocity.

Most scouts employ radar guns which are particularly useful on the amateur trail, at minor league ballparks, and in spring training.

Since PITCHf/x went online in every MLB stadium in 2008, baseball, for the first time, enjoyed a uniform standard in velocity measurement. At places like FanGraphs, we often search for increases and decreases in velocity to explain something about a player’s performance.

Some teams like the Yankees and Pirates have placed a premium on velocity relative to other clubs, as I wrote earlier this month.

Velocity has increased at the MLB level every year since PITCHf/x has tracked pitches with average fastball velocity reaching 92.6 mph last season. At the amateur level there is a focus on velocity at showcase events and in travel ball, velocity is what in part allows pitchers to be drafted in the early rounds of the June draft. When visiting a pitcher’s profile page at Perfect Game, velocity readings are displayed and placed in the context of a player’s peer group. For an example, here is Dylan Bundy’s PG profile.

So perhaps it is no surprise that on the eve of February, the month in which equipment trucks depart for southern spring training destinations and pitchers and catchers report, that of the free agent pitchers that remain unsigned – and there are a number of them – the majority are soft-tossing pitchers.

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Punting First Base Is The New Black

It’s no secret that this winter has not been kind to veteran hitters, particularly those with limited defensive ability. Mike Napoli is still a free agent, as are Chris Carter and Pedro Alvarez. Brandon Moss just signed with the Royals yesterday, getting a backloaded $12 million on a two year deal. Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Mark Trumbo all took significant discounts relative to their initial asking prices. As we discussed a few weeks ago, the market for offense-first players was remarkably poor this year, to the point where it could be seen as an overcorrection; perfectly useful players are signing for less than what similarly valuable players with different skills are getting paid.

What is perhaps most interesting about this development, however, is that the teams who could are most in need of a first base upgrade are also teams that should be trying to squeak out every marginal win they can find.

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The Astros Have a Completely New Look

To whatever extent the Astros are going to have issues, they probably won’t have to worry too much about the lineup. As Mike Petriello recently wrote, said lineup looks to be incredibly deep. Based just on Steamer and our present depth charts, the Astros project to have easily the best-hitting lineup in the American League. The Red Sox come in second, but they trail by more than 30 runs. Steamer is just one system, and ZiPS will join it soon, but the point is made clear: The Astros offense looks good. They’ll score a bunch.

Yet something else has taken place, quietly. As the Astros have built a better order, there’s also been a rather significant side effect. I can’t tell you whether it’s been intentional, or whether it’s been a coincidence. But if you can believe it, the Astros are going to make contact. In fact, they project to be very nearly the best contact-hitting lineup in the game.

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Switch-Hitting with the Two Jonathan Villars

“I’m a completely different hitter from each side of the plate,” Hank Conger told me one time. He went on to describe how he had more loft in his swing from one side. Switch-hitter Billy Burns said about the same thing, speculating that his relative lack of experience hitting from the left side was the cause for his lack of power on contact from that side. “My muscles aren’t as strong there,” he told me in July of 2015. Even if a player is capable of hitting — even hitting well — from both sides of the plate, that doesn’t mean he’s the same type of hitter from both sides. Subtle differences are bound to be present.

All of this may explain a strange thing that happened to Jonathan Villar last year.

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Brandon Gomes on Joining Dodgers’ New Pitching Dept.

Brandon Gomes is on to phase two of his baseball career. Ten years after being drafted out of Tulane University, the 32-year-old right-hander has moved from the mound to a player-development position. This past fall, he was hired as a pitching coordinator by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

His role is somewhat atypical, which is hardly a surprise given the team employing him. Led by Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi, and Josh Byrnes, the Dodgers front office is as progressive as any in the game. They like bringing on board smart, creative people, and Gomes has a degree in Legal Studies and Finance to augment his five seasons as a Tampa Bay Rays reliever.

Gomes talked about his new job, and some of what’s being done in LA’s newly-created pitching department, late last week.

———

Gomes on getting hired by the Dodgers: “After I got released [by the Cubs] in June, I spent about three or four weeks trying to find another Triple-A job. No teams showed interest, so at that point I decided I wanted to pursue this end of things. I contacted [president of baseball operations] Andrew Friedman, who I had relationship with from our time in Tampa, and that kind of got the ball rolling. He put me in contact with [director of player development] Gabe Kapler.

“I spoke with Gabe quite a bit, trying to figure out what shape my role would be if I came on board. That happened in September, when I went out to instructional league in Arizona. I spent a month there, getting to know some of the staff, and build a relationship with some of the younger players.

“My title is ‘Pitching Coordinator, Performance.’ We actually created a department, so we have a couple of pitching coordinators, of different iterations. That’s wise, because it’s a huge undertaking for one person to really tackle the entire situation. Having multiple people who are able to hit it from different angles, the goal is to not miss anything with any of our guys.

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Eric Longenhagen Prospects Chat vs Monster Zero

12:02
Eric A Longenhagen: Morning, everyone.

12:02
Eric A Longenhagen: So, there are A LOT of questions in the queue about other peoples’ lists. I won’t be answering any of those.

12:02
Eric A Longenhagen: I will say this…

12:03
Eric A Longenhagen: The gap between Prospect # 20 on a list and prospect #80 on someone else’s looks a lot bigger than it actually is.

12:03
Eric A Longenhagen: Yeah, I’m looking at my Top 100 right now and the gap between #2 on the list and #21 is literally a half grade

12:04
Eric A Longenhagen: And those tiers get even bigger the further down you go.

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Top 24 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DET, KC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)
NL East (ATL, MIA, NYM, PHI, WAS)
AL East (BAL, BOSNYY, TB, TOR)

Cardinals Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Alex Reyes 22 MLB RHP 2017 65
2 Delvin Perez 18 R SS 2021 55
3 Sandy Alcantara 21 A+ RHP 2018 55
4 Carson Kelly 22 MLB C 2017 50
5 Luke Weaver 23 MLB RHP 2017 50
6 Jack Flaherty 21 A+ RHP 2018 50
7 Dakota Hudson 22 A+ RHP 2019 50
8 Eliezer Alvarez 22 A 2B 2019 45
9 Magneuris Sierra 20 A OF 2020 45
10 Edmundo Sosa 20 A+ SS 2019 45
11 Harrison Bader 22 AAA OF 2017 45
12 Junior Fernandez 19 A+ RHP 2018 45
13 Paul DeJong 23 AA 2B 2017 45
14 Jordan Hicks 20 A- RHP 2020 40
15 Austin Gomber 23 AA LHP 2018 40
16 Randy Arozarena 21 AAA UTIL 2018 40
17 Marcos Gonzalez 24 MLB LHP 2017 40
18 Jake Woodford 20 A RHP 2020 40
19 Nick Plummer 20 R OF 2021 40
20 Dylan Carlson 18 R OF 2020 40
21 Andrew Morales 24 AA RHP 2018 40
22 Connor Jones 22 A- RHP 2019 40
23 Zac Gallen 21 R RHP 2019 40
24 John Gant 24 MLB RHP 2017 40

65 FV Prospects

1. Alex Reyes, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republlic
Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
70/70 45/50 60/60 55/60 40/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Average fastball velo was 97 mph in big-league appearances.

Scouting Report
The rate at which Reyes missed bats during his 46-inning big-league stint last year is encouraging considering he only turned 22 in August and his repertoire is still relatively amorphous. By now you should know about his fastball, a plus-plus seed that sits in the mid-90s and will crest 100 during relief outings. That velocity arguably allows an already average-to-above changeup play as plus as hitters are geared up for elite velocity only to wave helplessly at a fading 86-91.

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Rich Hill: “A Role Model for Failure”

The Dodgers and Rich Hill announced their agreement at a ballroom podium in a sprawling Marriott hotel property in National Harbor, Maryland, in December. Hill fought back emotion through the press conference after signing a three-year, $48 million agreement at the winter meetings.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to do this… There’s a lot of emotion up here,” said Hill to reporters, explaining the reason for his pauses. “It’s been an incredible journey to get to this point.”

This was a player who had been through much professionally (nearly losing a career) and personally (losing an infant son in 2014), the latter event placing life and the game in perspective.

Hill’s unlikely and unusual success story has multiple layers. There’s the work he did to strengthen his body and arm. There was the counsel of Red Sox pitching guru Brian Bannister, who helped him with his pitch mix and philosophy. There’s the bet he made on himself, believing he could return to a rotation despite having not started a major-league game since 2009, showcasing himself starter with the independent Long Island Ducks in the summer of ’15 to prove it.

But another compelling aspect of Hill’s reclamation story is the process of sorting through what’s effective and what isn’t in the midst of failure. What’s so interesting is the process Hill took in climbing from the nadir of a career to become one of the most effective pitchers per inning last season. In a sport that deals so much with failure, Hill’s story is perhaps an instructional one.

Hill described himself as “a role model for failure” in an excellent L.A. Times feature by Andy McCullough.

Hill is indeed a model to follow — for how he employed all the tools available to him and for the curiosity and purpose he exhibited along the way.

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Effectively Wild Episode 1013: Were the Cardinals Punished Appropriately?

EWFI

Ben Lindbergh, Jeff Sullivan, and Sports on Earth Senior Writer Will Leitch banter about the accuracy of a Jarrod Dyson declaration and the fairness of the penalty levied against St. Louis in the Cardinals-Astros hacking scandal.

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The Royals Just Barely Resemble the Royals

Word came out over the weekend that the Royals have signed Brandon Moss to a two-year contract, pending a physical. There’s nothing too strange about it, and Moss should have little trouble finding himself regular plate appearances. He won’t cost the Royals too much, and he will bring a power bat. You can think of him as being pretty similar, overall, to Chris Carter. Decent eye, lots of power, lots of fly balls. Moss is a little more versatile, while Carter is a little bit younger. It’s a fine player signed to a fine contract by a team with an opening. Most people wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

And — look, team profiles don’t mean very much. Every team just wants to win, and it doesn’t matter how it happens. Front offices wouldn’t often refer to themselves as having one particular style. Value is value. And as far as the Royals are concerned, transition was inevitable. Everyone knew about their impending free-agent situation coming into the winter. At some point, the Royals were going to look different. Teams go through phases.

I’d just like to point something out about how the Royals look today. We’ve spent so much time in the past discussing the Royals’ style of baseball. From the looks of things, these Royals aren’t those Royals. It’s just a team with a few familiar faces.

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The Cardinals Got Off Light for the Astros Hack

It wouldn’t be fair to refer to MLB’s disciplinary record as toothless. There exists a relatively tough PED policy, and as of not all that long ago, there also exists a relatively tough policy on domestic violence. And last summer, the Red Sox were dealt a decently severe penalty for international signing violations, even though their behavior wasn’t exactly unique to them. The Red Sox were hit hard. Individual players have been hit hard when they’ve crossed the line. There’s not a consistent history of the commissioner being too light.

What we have now, though, are two penalties that have drawn similar reactions within the league. Many teams and team-people thought the Padres got off way too easy when A.J. Preller was suspended a month for withholding medical information in trade talks. And now, there’s a similar consensus belief about the penalty dealt to the Cardinals for Chris Correa’s repeated hacks of the Astros. Everyone had been waiting for a while to see how baseball would deal with an unprecedented conduct violation. In the end, the Cardinals are out a couple draft picks.

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The Rays Should Remain Opportunistic

There was much focus, understandably, on the Dodgers’ addition of Logan Forsythe to their club. He’s a valuable player who fills a large-market NL contender’s most glaring need.

There was less attention on the small-market Rays and where they go in 2017 after trading Forsythe, who projected to be their third most valuable position player this coming season. They are a team that projects to be in the postseason picture in 2017.

The Rays continue to be opportunistic, as they have to be, and continue to trade some of today for more of tomorrow. They didn’t really need Mallex Smith, at least not immediately, but they acquired him as the headline piece in the Drew Smyly deal. Smith adds controllable years and surplus value. They don’t really need Jose De Leon, not immediately, but he offers more future surplus value and controllable years. And it’s possible he’s one of the Rays’ top-five starting options in 2017. According to Steamer, he will be just that.

Dave Cameron wrote last week that the Rays did well in the trade. When a team can land a pitcher who has six years of control — and who’s projected by Steamer to record 2.4 WAR as a starter — for a second baseman who’s more of a useful short-term asset (Forsythe has a club option for 2018) than a franchise building block, it’s generally a value-adding transaction.

But my purpose in writing this piece is not to argue the logic or rationale of those transactions, rather to look at the remaining opportunity for the Rays in regard to 2017.

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Shawn Kelley’s Much Deserved Opportunity

Are you overshadowed by a rock-star colleague? Maybe you’re great at your job, but this person occupies a similar role and is amazing at theirs. This super-you exceeds expectations on every project, perpetually radiates serenity, and never burns popcorn in the office microwave. In actual talent level you’re not far behind this person, but in management’s eyes you don’t measure up. You’re employed, sure, but constantly feeling overlooked.

Shawn Kelley knows how you feel. For years, his managers overlooked him when they called for a closer. After spending four years in Seattle behind David Aardsma, Brandon League, and Tom Wilhelmsen, Kelley landed with the Yankees in 2013. Would he close games? Well, Mariano Rivera was not only the Yankees’ closer, but also their legend riding off into the sunset. And in 2014 it was David Robertson’s turn in the ninth.

After the Yankees traded Kelley to the Padres, Eno Sarris argued that he could close games. But A.J. Preller disagreed. One day before the season started, he acquired Craig Kimbrel. When Kelley signed with the Nationals prior to 2016, Jonathan Papelbon was the closer. When he wore out his welcome, Mark Melancon filled the role.

Kelley has been toiling in obscurity for his whole career, but 2017 may finally represent his first opportunity to shine. He’s the leading candidate to close games in D.C. I’m here to tell these folks and Nationals fans: it’s okay to get excited at the prospect of Shawn Kelley, Nationals closer.

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Is Baseball the Least Random Sport?

Former front-office analyst and now stats professor at Smith College Ben Baumer has a paper out, with cowriters Michael J. Lopez of Skidmore College and Gregory J. Matthews of Loyola University Chicago, that hopes to answer a question we’ve all thought about when our favorite team loses: how often does the best team win in a given sport? How much of our pain can we explain away with luck? The answers contain multitudes.

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Maybe the Rockies Are Contenders in 2017

We’ve written a lot about the Rockies in the last week. David Laurila interviewed GM Jeff Bridich about how he sees the organization, we talked about their signing of Greg Holland, Jeff Sullivan covered their pitch-framing possibilities, and Travis Sawchik suggested they try something different with their pitching staff. Finally, this morning, we wrapped up unofficial Rockies week with the team’s ZIPS projections.

That’s a lot of Rockies content, but all have it has been focused on specific parts of the team, while leaving mostly untouched the question that is central to their organization and the moves they made this winter: are the Rockies legitimate contenders this year?

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Burke Badenhop on Joining D-backs as Baseball Ops Analyst

Burke Badenhop is on to phase two of his baseball career. Twelve years after being drafted out of Bowling Green State University, the 33-year-old right-hander has moved from the playing field to the front office. He was recently hired as a baseball operations analyst by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The move doesn’t come as a surprise. Badenhop has been featured here at FanGraphs multiple times, and he’s always supplied thoughtful, analytically savvy quotes. His contributions to MLB Trade Rumors have likewise been insightful. It is easy to see why the a forward-thinking organization would want to bring him on board.

It is also not surprising that it’s the Diamondbacks giving him this opportunity. Arizona’s new brain trust is anything but backward, and some of them, including GM Mike Hazen, had become acquainted with Badenhop when he pitched for the Red Sox in 2014. A few short years later, he’ll be using his brain, as opposed to his sinker, to help them win baseball games.

———

Badenhop on getting his new job: “The guy whose eye I caught was Jared Porter, who is now an assistant GM with the Diamondbacks. Luckily, I was at the right place at the right time when he was the pro scouting director in Boston. He sat in on a few of our pitchers meetings and the fact that I looked at, and understood, the pitch data stuck in his brain a little bit.

“He moved on to the Cubs, under Theo, and about a month after I got released by the Rangers [in late April, 2016], he reached out to my agent. He asked if I was interested in moving forward in a non-playing role. I went up to Chicago, and we had some conversations, but they were busy being the best team in baseball, so hiring wasn’t at the forefront of their minds.

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Travis Sawchik FanGraphs Chat

12:01
Travis Sawchik: Welcome, everyone. Let’s talk …

12:02
Erik: Do you think the Golden Age of Shortstops could force a rethink of what it means to be a good shortstop? Currently, a glove-first shortstop with a chance to slap his way to a decent but completely empty batting average is considered a shortstop prospect. Could the current crop redefine the position to the extent that that’s no longer the case?

12:04
Travis Sawchik: I think there is the potential, yes. This current crop of shortstops is amazing … and the prospect lists are loaded with impressive shortstop potential, too. I don’t think we know much about what the 21st century athlete is going to do going forward but there’s a chance it redefines what we expect from the position (Shameless plug … I wrote about this Golden Age of shortstops on the Site today)

12:05
Rb: Quintana for meadows Keller and Newman. Who says no white Sox or pirates?

12:05
Travis Sawchik: I doubt the Pirates would part with both

12:06
GERB: What does a ceiling for Jose Ramirez look like? 2016 with a few more walks?

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2017 ZiPS Projections – Colorado Rockies

After having typically appeared in the very famous pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past few years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Colorado Rockies. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cleveland / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York AL / Oakland / Pittsburgh / St. Louis / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Tampa Bay / Texas / Toronto / Washington.

Batters
Colorado field players produced slightly fewer wins than the average unit in 2016. The numbers here suggest that, given reasonable health, that same group ought to rate as something slightly better than average in 2017. Unsurprisingly, Nolan Arenado (646 PA, 4.7 zWAR) receives the club’s top wins projection. ZiPS calls for Arenado not only to produce the top batting line on the team (.374 wOBA), but also — after accounting for the third-base positional adjustment — to produce more than a win with his glove.

Of some interest here is the projection for Ian Desmond (639, 1.7). He’s forecast to record +6 runs at first base, a position he’s played zero times as a professional. Of course, one would expect a former shortstop to handle first base with some ease; however, those curious about Szymborski’ methodology should definitely, definitely, definitely contact him definitely at @DSzymborski.

Finally, a brief examination of things reveals that Colorado employs not one, but two, Gerardo Parras: Parra himself and also Raimel Tapia. Tapia’s No. 1 comp is the 23-year-old version of Parra.

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