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February 19, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Texas Rangers Top 10 Prospects

by Jason Parks

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State of the Farm:I give her all my love. That's all I do. And if you saw my love. You'd love her too.”

Prospect rankings primer

The Top Ten

  1. SS Jurickson Profar
  2. IF/OF Mike Olt
  3. LHP Martin Perez
  4. C Jorge Alfaro
  5. SS Luis Sardinas
  6. CF Lewis Brinson
  7. RHP Justin Grimm
  8. OF Nomar Mazara
  9. 1B Ronald Guzman
  10. 3B Joey Gallo

1. Jurickson Profar
Position: SS
DOB: 02/20/1993
Height/Weight: 6’0’’ 165 lbs.
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2009, Curacao
2012 Stats: .281/.368/.452 at Double-A Frisco (126 games); .176/.176/.471 at major-league level (9 games)
The Tools: 7 hit; 6+ arm; 6+ potential glove; 5+ power potential; 5 run

What Happened in 2012: After spending the 2011 season in Low-A, Profar jumped to the Double-A level to start 2012, and finished the year at the major-league level at the age of 19. 

Strengths: Advanced instincts for the game; preternatural bat-to-ball ability; fluid swing from both sides; hard contact; hit tool projects as 7; natural pop; could be 5+ power at maturity; excellent pitch recognition skills/strike zone judgment; 5 run, but plays up in game action; glove is 6; arm is 6+; profiles as above-average major-league shortstop with above average major-league bat

Weaknesses: Playmaker with glove, but can struggle with routine balls he has to center; not a burner; at the plate, can try to do too much in the moment (all-star talent that wants to be an all-star on every play in every situation); his biggest weakness is that he doesn’t play for (insert favorite team here).

Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star player

Explanation of Risk: Low risk; reaches the major leagues at age 19; tools, skills, and feel for the game.

Fantasy Future: Could hit .300 with a very high OBP, 20-plus home runs, and steal 20-plus bases from a premium defensive position. Is that good?

The Year Ahead: From a scouting perspective, Profar is ready to play baseball at the major-league level. But organizational depth is a factor for the Rangers, and as promising as Profar’s defensive skill-set happens to be, Elvis Andrus is still the king at the position. Long term, Profar has a chance to be the superior player, with plus chops with the glove and a plus bat; the kind of player that every org in baseball dreams of acquiring. It’s not just the tools that Profar beings to the table that make him special, it’s the instincts and feel that not only allow game utility but push the tools beyond their paper grade. Only a few short years ago, Profar was widely considered a better pitching prospect than a positional talent, and several scouts and front office personnel were sure his desire to play shortstop would be short-lived and a return to the bump would be inevitable.  How’d that work out?

Major league ETA: 2012

2. Mike Olt
Position: IF/OF
DOB: 08/27/1988
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2010 draft, University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
2012 Stats: .288/.398/.579 at Double-A Frisco (95 games); .152/.250/.182 at major-league level (16 games)
The Tools: 5 hit; 6+ power potential; 6 glove; 6+ arm

What Happened in 2012: Olt crushed at the Double-A level, leaving little doubt about the power in the bat and the proficiency of the glove.

Strengths: Good athlete; high-end bat speed; power to all fields; some sources put a 7 on his raw power; could hit 25-30 HR at major-league level; good eye for balls/strikes; glove at third is plus; centers and plays position with shortstop actions; arm is easy plus.

Weaknesses: Hit tool is only average; swing has a lot of miss (will swing and miss on balls in the zone); hit tool could cause game power to play down; below average run.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: Low risk; achieved major-league level; ready for extended look.

Fantasy Future: Potential to hit .265-plus with good on-base ability and 25-plus HR power; bat can play at any position.

The Year Ahead: Olt is a very good third baseman, and the overall profile obviously looks better if he stays at the hot corner at the highest level. But like Profar, organizational depth necessitates alternative defensive assignments, so Olt could find himself wearing several different positional hats for the 2013 Rangers. Olt is a good athlete with good fundamental baseball skills, so you can put him in right field or first base and he can hold his own. His bat is where he will make his bones, and if the hit tool plays enough to allow the power to flow through it, you can stick Olt anywhere you want and he will have value.

Major league ETA: 2012

3. Martin Perez
Position: LHP
DOB: 04/04/1991
Height/Weight: 6’0’’ 190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2007, Venezuela
2012 Stats: 4.25 ERA (127 IP, 122 H, 69 K, 56 BB) at Triple-A Round Rock; 5.45 ERA
(38 IP, 47 H, 25 K, 15 BB) at major-league level
The Tools: 6 FB; 6+ CH; 5 CB; 5 potential SL

What Happened in 2012: A very up and down year for Perez, who continues to show above average raw stuff, but often sacrificed missed bats for more efficiency.

Strengths: Very good arm action; fastball is easy plus; works 91-93 and touches higher; shows plus life on offering; changeup is best offering; high 6 pitch with incredible arm speed and late fall-off-the-table action; curveball has good shape and has always flashed above-average potential.

Weaknesses: Mechanical inconsistencies; doesn’t stay direct to the plate; tendency to overthrow; when fastball command is off, changeup plays down; shows some potential with slider, but will overthrow it; curveball is hard to command and inconsistent; overall approach can detonate when setback occurs

Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3 starter

Explanation of Risk: Low risk; has major-league quality stuff; achieved major-league level; high floor

Fantasy Future: Lefty with two 6+ pitches and two breaking balls that will flash; has the potential to develop into a mid-rotation starter

The Year Ahead: Perez has been on the prospect radar for a very long time, and a featured resident on Rangers top 10 lists since the 2008 season. As he transitions from prospect to player, Perez will need to find more fluidity and consistency in his delivery, staying on a better line to the plate and throwing more strikes. The raw stuff is excellent from the left side, with an easy fastball in the low-mid 90s and a changeup that some call a 7 pitch. But the utility comes and goes, and very rarely does Perez have the entire arsenal working at the same time. If it clicks, he’s a legit major-league starter with a chance to exceed the conservative ceiling mentioned here. He’s not a finished product and will pitch the season as a 22-year-old, so it’s major-league rotation or bust for the young Venezuelan. 

Major league ETA: 2012

4. Jorge Alfaro
Position: C
DOB: 06/11/1993
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 185 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2010, Colombia
2012 Stats: .261/.320/.430 at Low-A Hickory (74 games)
The Tools: 8 arm; 7 raw; 6 run; 6 potential glove; 5 hit

What Happened in 2012: #TheLegend made his full-season debut in the Sally League, and continued to flash the type of high-end tools that could make him a star at the highest level.

Strengths: Very loud tool profile; very good athlete; raw arm strength is 8; raw power is 7; precocious opposite field power; near elite bat speed; 6 run; routinely 4.15-4.2 to first; excellent second gear; hit tool projects to 5; glove has above-average potential

Weaknesses: Still raw on all sides of the ball; 8 arm plays down (6+) because of throwing mechanics and footwork; receiving skills need a lot of work; approach is aggressive and reactionary; chews up fastballs over the plate, but struggles offspeed/sequence; needs to slow his game down.

Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star player

Explanation of Risk: Extreme risk; special profile, but a long way from putting it together.

Fantasy Future: Could be middle-of-the-order hitter from a premium defensive position; potential to hit .260-plus with over-the-fence power.

The Year Ahead: Developing a catcher is more than just a physical exercise, as it takes a multi-dimensional focus to excel at the position. Alfaro is one of the most tooled-upped players in the minors, but as is often the case, the promise of the bat can set a developmental trajectory that the development of the glove struggles to match, which has prompted several sources to mention a future position change for Alfaro. In the coming year, Alfaro will move to High-A and will continue to wear the burden of being a backstop and a highly projectable offensive threat at the same time, but if the bat moves at a faster pace than the glove, Alfaro might start seeing reps at other spots on the diamond. His role grade is predicated on his positional value behind the plate, and if he does move to right field or even first base, his overall projection will drop a full grade. But even in the event of a position change, the middle-of-the-order promise in the bat is very legit and could make him a first-division player if everything clicks.

Major league ETA: 2016

5. Luis Sardinas
Position: SS
DOB: 05/16/1993
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 150 lbs.
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2009, Venezuela
2012 Stats: .291/.346/.356 at Low-A Hickory (96 games)
The Tools: 6+ potential hit; 6 arm; 7 glove; 7 run

What Happened in 2012: Finally healthy, Sardinas started to live up to his amateur hype, advancing to a full-season level and finishing the year as one of the youngest prospects in the Arizona Fall League.

Strengths: Very good athlete; shows a fluid swing from both sides of the plate; very contact oriented, but good bat speed and line-drive ability; hit tool has easy plus potential; 7 run; true shortstop; plus glove, with ultra smooth actions; plus arm; plus overall profile at position.

Weaknesses: Has had trouble staying on the field; slight frame/narrow; has been unable to add much weight/strength to frame; left-handed swing is more slappy/produces less punch; might be empty average hitter.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: High risk; injury history with both shoulders; limited professional record.

Fantasy Future: Has the potential to hit for a high average and steal bases; profiles as a true shortstop at the highest level.

The Year Ahead: It often gets forgotten that Sardinas has an even better defensive profile than fellow J2 classmate Jurickson Profar, with slick actions and a very strong arm. He’s been sidetracked with assorted injuries, but a healthy Sardinas is a serious player and he could be ready for another step forward in 2013. People will pay to watch this kid pick it at short, and if he can add some much needed strength and stability to his frame, his easy and fluid swing can pack a little more punch and give him another dimension at the plate. 

Major league ETA: 2015

6. Lewis Brinson
Position: CF
DOB: 05/08/1994
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 175 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Coral Springs High School (Coral Springs, FL)
2012 Stats: .283/.345/.523 at complex level AZL (54 games)
The Tools: 6 run; 6 arm; 6 potential glove; 6+ raw

What Happened in 2012: All the pre-draft reports on Brinson suggested he was an extremely raw player with a ton of tools and limited baseball skills, but the first-round pick arrived with more polish than advertised and showed excellent feel and instincts for the game.

Strengths: Premium athlete; excellent physical projection; profiles as above-average defensive center fielder; plus arm; plus range; glove has plus potential; shows good on-the-field instincts at the position; big raw power; crushed left-handed pitching; can square velocity; legit five-tool prospect; huge makeup.

Weaknesses: Swing can show some length; leveraged; likes to swing and will expand the zone; hit tool has lowest projection of all tools; shows high-end promise in center, but reads/routes need refinement.

Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star player

Explanation of Risk: Extreme risk; lofty ceiling, but long way to go; only 18. Fantasy Future: Has monster potential, with power in the bat, stolen bases in the legs, all from a premium defensive position that he should be able to play at a high level. It’s a long shot, but one source said he could be a 30/30 type at the plate and a Gold Glove-quality defender in center.

The Year Ahead: Brinson is ready to make the jump to full-season ball, where the length of his swing and the aggressive nature of his approach will be tested by better pitching. With the top tier of the Rangers farm system set to graduate from the prospect ranks, Brinson has the type of electric, high-impact skill-set to be the no. 1 prospect in the system at this time next year. This is the type of player that can come back to haunt all the teams that let him fall to the 29t overall pick in the 2012 draft. The dream is big, but the risk is of equal size.

Major league ETA: 2016

7. Justin Grimm
Position: RHP
DOB: 08/16/1988
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 175 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 5th round, 2010 draft, University of Georgia (Athens, GA)
2012 Stats: 1.72 ERA (83.2 IP, 70 H, 73 K, 14 BB) at Double-A Frisco; 4.59 ERA (51 IP, 53 H, 30 K, 16 BB) at Triple-A Round Rock; 9.00 ERA (14 IP, 22 H, 13 K, 3 BB) at
major-league level
The Tools: 6 FB; 6 CB; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2012: With a deep arsenal and a very good feel for pitching, Grimm passed the Double-A test and eventually found himself on a major-league mound.

Strengths: Athletic with good size; strike thrower; multiple fastball looks; four-seam can work easy plus and touch 95-96 mph; two-seamer works low-90s with some movement; curveball is plus offering; heavy vertical action; shows feel for a promising changeup; fooled around with slider; has pitchability.

Weaknesses: Four-seam can lack movement; delivery is easy and fluid, but doesn’t offer much deception; hitters get good (early) look at the ball; can tip secondary pitches with deliberate setup.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3 starter

Explanation of Risk: Low risk; already achieved major-league level; ready for extended look at the level; stuff to play in rotation.

Fantasy Future: Has the athleticism/body to log innings at highest level; deep arsenal and strike-throwing ability; should develop into league-average starter with a chance for more.

The Year Ahead: Grimm has a chance to put his name on a rotation spot in 2013, whether that happens out of camp or not. While its not an overwhelming profile, Grimm does have the potential to bring three above average offerings to the table and the ability to throw strikes. He needs to continue the process of turning his excellent control into excellent command, and the secondary arsenal needs more consistency, but Grimm has all of the tools to develop into a quality major-league starter.

Major league ETA: 2012

8. Nomar Mazara
Position: OF
DOB: 04/26/1995
Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2011, Dominican Republic
2012 Stats: .264/.383/.448 at complex level AZL (54 games)
The Tools: 7+ raw; 5 potential hit

What Happened in 2012: You can make the case that Mazara took the biggest steps forward of any player in the Rangers farm system, going from a player with batting practice promise to a player with legit game production.

Strengths: Massive raw; highly projectable; shows bat speed; power characteristics in swing; very big power ceiling; good athlete for size; solid-average to plus arm; solid glove; big makeup/work ethic; good feel for strike zone.

Weaknesses: Swing has some length; can get tied up inside; deep hand load; struggles against arm-side stuff; hit tool has average projection.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: High risk; complex-league resume; will play 2013 season at age 18.

Fantasy Future: Prototypical right field profile, with 30-plus HR potential; might not hit for high average and speed not a part of game; hit tool should be enough to let power play.

The Year Ahead: Mazara is still a raw product and far away from reaching his vast potential, but if he can show a similar progression in 2013 like he did in 2012, the Rangers might have something special in this kid. Big power bats are hard to find, and Mazara’s power is legit; he might not hit for a high batting average and he might feature some swing-and-miss, but when he does make contact, it will be very loud and very dangerous, and his approach will allow for on-base ability which will make him more than just an all-or-nothing power hitter. He will be challenged by full-season pitching and the production might not match the promise from day one, but with his makeup and his ability to make adjustments, he is a good candidate to improve as a the season continues.

Major league ETA: 2016

9. Ronald Guzman
Position: 1B
DOB: 10/20/1994
Height/Weight: 6’5’’ 205 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2011, Dominican Republic
2012 Stats: .321/.374/.434 at complex level AZL (52 games)
The Tools: 7 potential hit; 6 potential power

What Happened in 2012: Despite being only 17 and playing stateside ball, Guzman got better each month of the short-season and finished the year by hitting .356 in the month of August.

Strengths: Very tall/long; natural hitter; despite long arms, takes good path to the ball and shows bat speed; swing plane keeps bat in the zone a long time; line-drive stroke; several sources put a future 7 on the hit tool; excellent overall approach; tracks pitches very well; power could be slow to develop because of swing, but  has above-average potential; huge reports on makeup and work ethic; highly intelligent; very big target at first base; flexible on the stretch; glove improved throughout season

Weaknesses: Limited defensively; arm is well below average; well below average run; large, underdeveloped frame can be awkward/uncoordinated at times; questions about what body looks like at maturity; power potential is a question mark.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: High risk; very promising hit tool, but very young; complex-league resume

Fantasy Future: Could develop into atypical first baseman, with high average, high on-base percentage, lots of doubles, but not huge HR totals.

The Year Ahead: Like fellow Dominican skyscraper Nomar Mazara, Guzman is ready to make the jump to full-season ball in 2013, and with it, face the challenges that will arrive from full-season pitching. Because of his defensive profile, he’s going to have to mash all the way up the chain, proving the validity of his bat at each stop. The swing is very sweet and the approach very mature for his age, but until he gets a heavy dose of more advanced pitching, we are still left with more questions about the profile than answers.

Major league ETA: 2016

10. Joey Gallo
Position: 3B
DOB: 11/19/1993
Height/Weight: 6’5’’ 205 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, NV)
2012 Stats: .293/.435/.733 at complex level AZL (43 games); .214/.343/.464 at short-season Spokane (16 games)
The Tools: 8 raw; 7 arm

What Happened in 2012: You mean besides slugging over .700 at the complex level as an 18-year-old and setting an AZL record for home runs?

Strengths: 80 raw power; impressive size/strength; generates plenty of bat speed; ball just launches off of the bat; potential to hit 40-plus home runs; arguably the best raw power in the minors; good strike-zone awareness; arm is plus-plus

Weaknesses: Power hungry; wants to hit home runs and tries to hit home runs; lots of swing-and-miss; struggles to stay back on secondary stuff; defense at third base doesn’t receive good reviews; arm is very strong, but poor utility; footwork/glovework are big question marks.

Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division/all-star player

Explanation of Risk: Extreme risk; legit questions about hit tool/power utility against better pitching.

Fantasy Future: Has the potential to hit 40-plus home runs with on-base ability; strikeout totals could be extreme; low batting average.

The Year Ahead: Nobody doubts the raw power that Gallo brings to the table, but every source for this article has major questions about the amount of contact he will make against better pitching, and how much power will be able to come out as a result. If the bat falls flat next season, the setback will force Gallo to adjust his all-or-nothing power approach and could make him a better hitter as a result; like learning how to shorten up with two strikes or use a more linear stroke rather than an exaggerated lift against every offering in every location. When he runs into the ball, its going to go a long way, but he will need to advance as a hitter if he wants to advance as a prospect.

Major league ETA: 2016

Prospects on the Rise

1. 2B Rougned Odor: With an advanced hit tool, solid-average to plus defensive tools at second, and enough #swagger to supply an entire team, Odor is a prospect that should be in the top 10 discussion for years to come. He doesn’t have a crazy ceiling, but not many 19-years-old have his floor, and it’s entirely possibly that he reaches the Double-A level at some point in 2013.

2. OF Nick Williams: A 2nd round pick in the 2012 draft, Williams can flat-out rake, showing the ability to square up velocity and make loud contact to all fields. While he doesn’t have the same defensive qualities as complex teammate and fellow 2012 draftee Lewis Brinson, his offensive projections are high enough to play in left field and propel him up prospect lists in 2013.

3. OF Jairo Beras: Everybody knows about the complications and subsequent punitive actions of the Beras signing, which resulted in a one-year suspension of the Dominican prospect. When he finally steps onto the short-season stage this summer, his prospect status could soar, as the raw power in the bat was the best of his J2 class and some of the best in recent memory from that market.

Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013

1. RHP Cody Buckel: With a deep arsenal and advanced pitchability, Buckel crushed the Carolina League and made a very strong showing in Double-A over the summer. He’s probably more of a no. 4 starter than a high-impact arm, but is a likely major-league contributor at some point in 2013, and a very safe bet to carve out a long career.

2. IF/OF Leury Garcia: In a system full of toolsy shortstop prospects, Garcia might have the loudest tools of the bunch. With a plus-plus arm, smooth actions, and 8 run, the diminutive yet catalytic player has positioned himself as a future super-utility option at the highest level. At the plate, he can make contact and get his legs involved, and on defense, he can play on the left side of the infield and has even logged time in the outfield.

3. OF Engel Beltre: It seems like Beltre has been a prospect for a decade, tantalizing fans with his five-tool potential and high-impact upside. In the upper minors, his scouting report has cooled, but he is still a plus defender at all three outfield spots and a plus runner. The approach and hit tool utility will most likely keep him from his ultimate ceiling, but Beltre could develop into a cost-effective and valuable bench outfielder at the highest level. 

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/87 or later)

  1. Elvis Andrus, SS
  2. Jurickson Profar, SS
  3. Mike Olt, 3B
  4. Neftali Feliz, RHP
  5. Martin Perez, LHP
  6. Leonys Martin, OF
  7. Jorge Alfaro, C
  8. Luis Sardinas, SS
  9. Lewis Brinson, OF
  10. Justin Grimm, RHP

While the Rangers’ system is powered by its impressive depth of high-ceiling talent at the lower levels, the club also has a number of players ready to make an impact in Arlington. Prospects like SS Jurickson Profar, 3B Mike Olt, LHP Martin Perez, and RHP Justin Grimm should all log big-league action in 2013. That’s in addition to under-25 established big leaguers Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz, who have already combined for three American League All-Star selections. Although OF Leonys Martin has too much service time to qualify for our prospects list, he’s another young talent looking to cement himself in the Rangers’ lineup this season.

From the major leagues to the lower minors, Texas may have the game’s deepest crop of middle infield talent. This U25 list certainly reflects that, with three shortstops ranking in the top eight, including Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar occupying the top two spots. Still only 24, Andrus has blossomed into an elite defender who’s gradually progressing with the bat. The Venezuelan isn’t going to provide loads of power, but he should be a consistent .280-.290 hitter with an acceptable walk rate and 20-30 steals annually at full maturity. Though Profar’s glove at short projects as a plus, it’s not quite on Andrus’ elite level. The switch-hitting Profar may have a higher ceiling with more offensive potential. Turning 20 on Feb. 20th, Profar has perhaps the minors’ best hit tool––he could be a .300 hitter––coupled with on-base ability and at least average power.

Signed to a five-year, $15.5 million deal in 2011, Cuban import Leonys Martin is competing for the Rangers’ center field job this spring and should get his first extended major league look this season. After hitting .359/.422/.610 in 55 Triple-A games last year, he’s deserving of the opportunity. The 24-year-old profiles as a solid-average regular up the middle with decent tools across the board. The bat may be ready, but his outfield routes and baserunning skills have room for improvement.

On the mound, 24-year-old fireballer Neftali Feliz is expected to miss most of the 2013 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery last August. An excellent late-innings reliever between 2009 and 2011, Feliz moved into the Rangers’ rotation last season, making only seven starts before succumbing to the elbow troubles. The righty could be in for a full-time return to the bullpen, where his heavy mid- to upper 90s gas makes him a standout closer.

The Rangers’ U25 list doesn’t include southpaw Robbie Ross, who posted a 2.22 ERA in 58 appearances out of the big-league bullpen last season. Ross would have ranked 11th on this list; he’s narrowly edged out by Justin Grimm. Currently working as a starter in camp, Ross most likely profiles as a reliever––though an effective one––long term with his ultra-lively 90-93 mph fastball and hard slider. The club is hoping 25-year-old righty Josh Lindblom can fill a seventh-inning role this year. Acquired from Philadelphia in the Michael Young deal this offseason, Lindblom features 90-94 mph velocity with a low to mid-80s slider. —Jason Cole

A Parting Thought: The system is absolutely loaded with high ceiling talent––most of it on the positional side--but the majority of that talent comes with a high risk, giving the Rangers farm a boom or bust quality.

Last year's Rangers rankings

Special thanks to Jason Cole and Chris Mellen for the input and influence on this list. 

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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