We’re almost there! Here is back-half of the Top 20 prospects in the Dodgers’ system. The names are all recognizable and some have high ceilings. With that, though, comes some guys who have substantial risk factors.
I’ve included Future Value, designated “FV,” grades and risks for the Top 30 prospects. For example, if a guy gets a “50 low,” he has a really good chance to be an average player at his position. If a guy gets a “55 high,” there’s a good chance he won’t reach that ceiling, but the potential is there. The grades are 20-80 (50 is average), and the risks are as follows:
- Low: Players who are usually older, have debuted, are relievers and/or have higher floors than ceilings
- Medium: Players who are a mix of younger and older, usually have higher floors
- High: Players who are usually younger with potential, but also question marks
- Extreme: Players who are younger with star potential, but a ton of question marks
This is to show what value a player might provide at the MLB level. The higher the risk, the less likely a player will reach that ceiling.
Previous entries in the series:
Editor’s Note: I am not a scout (#notascout). I am an amateur when it comes to evaluating players. I don’t claim to be a pro, I just want to pass along the information I observe/obtain to the people. Notes and comments are based on personal observation, talking to sources, reading scouting reports and watching video. For future entries in this series: All ratings in the charts below are on the standard 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is roughly average, 80 is elite and nearly unattainable, and 20 is unacceptably poor. Enjoy.
20. RHP James Marinan (6’5, 220 pounds, 19 years old)
The Dodgers landed Marinan in the fourth round out of Park Vista High School (Fla.) with an $825,000 signing bonus — more than double the slot-recommended amount. Like most prep draftees, Marinan’s pro career began in the Arizona Rookie League. In 17 innings, he struck out 14 hitters and didn’t give up a home run. The problem is, he also walked 14 hitters. Despite that, he posted a 1.59 ERA. It was a mixed debut for the young righty.
The big right-hander boasts a couple of potentially plus-pitches in his repertoire. His best pitch is a 4-seam fastball that sits in the 91-94 MPH range and has touched 96 MPH. With his frame, it isn’t unreasonable to project that to jump a couple ticks as he refines his delivery and gets more professional instruction. He could add a cutter as he progresses, as we know the Dodgers’ player development loves that pitch. He backs it up with a potentially plus-curveball in the 76-79 MPH range. It’s unrefined at present, but when everything clicks, he snaps it off and it misses bats. It has good depth and an 11-5 shape. He’ll need to work on being more consistent with the release point so it becomes a true curveball and not the “slurvy” shape it is right now. He also has a changeup that has received mixed reviews. It fades a bit to lefties, but it’s clearly his third-best pitch and is lagging behind the other two. He’ll need to improve it going forward (or add a different pitch) to remain a starting pitcher. But he’s still a teenager, so we’re a ways off from any kind of move to the bullpen.
If you’re building a prototype for a starting pitcher, Marinan might be it. He already has the frame of a 10-year MLB veteran starting pitcher, which bodes well for being able to handle the rigors of a starter’s workload. He worked out of the stretch in his pro debut, which may or may not be something he does in subsequent seasons. He comes set at shoulder-level with his front leg closed. He has a big leg kick and torques his body a bit before uncoiling and delivering the pitch. He doesn’t bend his back, which isn’t common for taller pitchers. He has a bit of a cross-body delivery with a high three-quarters release point and good arm speed. That could help him get a little more movement on his fastball. He doesn’t pick up his target right away — at least, he doesn’t flat-out look at the catcher until he brings his leg forward to deliver the pitch. Perhaps that could account for some of the command/crossfire issues he has. He’ll rush his delivery at times, which causes his front shoulder to open up and lead to missing up to his arm side.
Marinan is a really raw, but really intriguing pitching prospect. While he has some issues with his delivery and command/control, he has two premium pitches and the frame to be an innings-eater. He’ll have to improve his command/control and come up with a consistent third pitch if he wants to be a starter long-term (as well as refining both his fastball and curveball). He has the look of a solid No. 3/4 starter, with the potential to be a low-end No. 2 (should everything click). If he fails as a starter, he’d be an intriguing late-inning relief candidate. He could go back to Arizona for some more seasoning, but a trip to Ogden seems likely for him.
2017 ranking: NR
2018 location: AZL Dodgers/Rookie Ogden
19. RHP Imani Abdullah (6’6, 220 pounds, 21 years old)
Abdullah was the Dodgers’ 11th-round draft pick in 2015 out of Madison High School in San Diego. After a phone call from Magic Johnson, Abdullah signed for $647,500 in one of the largest post-10th-round bonus the Dodgers have given out in recent years. After a solid 72 1/3 innings with Great Lakes in 2016, he spent the first half of the 2017 season at Camelback Ranch participating in a strength and conditioning program. He came back and threw just 12 1/3 innings before feeling discomfort in his shoulder. He was shut down after that.
When he was drafted, his fastball sat in the 88-90 MPH range. But with a projectable frame, there was more velocity to be had. It ticked up to 90-92 last season (topping out at 94) and was, reportedly, up to 92-94 consistently and touches the mid-90s. It features a little sink and run to it, giving it a different dimension. His curveball is a work in progress at present. It has inconsistent break, varying between 11-5 and 12-6. It sits in the mid-70s and needs to be refined a bit. His best offspeed pitch is a low-80s changeup that features plenty of fade down in the strike zone. He maintains his arm speed well and could be a plus-pitch if he exhibits better command of it.
Abdullah has grown a bit since being drafted. He’s now a legit 6’6, so there might not be much projectability remaining, but he has made great strides since his high school days. He works from the first base side of the pitching rubber. From the wind-up, he comes set with his glove in front of his face. He steps back and brings his arms over his head before turning on the rubber. He has a high leg kick and uncoils and delivers the ball. It’s a deliberate delivery and long arm action, but he has good arm speed to make up for some of the lankiness. He has an over-the-top release point that he’s able to repeat well. He gets strong downward plane on his pitches, which isn’t uncommon for pitchers of his size.
The Dodgers are in no need to rush Abdullah, and a patient development approach is best for his long-term future. A trip back to Great Lakes for a refresher would make some sense. He’ll see the California League before too long. His main goal is just to stay on the mound for an extended period of time. He has mid-rotation upside. If he doesn’t develop his curveball further, he could be an interesting fastball-chagneup guy out of the bullpen.
2017 rank: 18
2018 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
18. C Connor Wong (6’1, 176 pounds, 22 years old)
The Dodgers certainly have a type when it comes to drafting catchers. Wong (who is generously listed at 6’1) was the Dodgers’ 3rd-round pick out of the University of Houston. He signed for $550,000, almost $13,000 over slot. After one plate appearance with the AZL Dodgers, he was sent to Great Lakes and hit better than most expected. He posted a .276/.333/.490 triple slash five home runs in 108 plate appearances. The amount of pop he showed in his debut is what surprised most folks.
Wong’s approach from the right side is simple. He sets up with a slightly open stance and his hands near the ear hole of his helmet. He closes his stance off with a toe-tap and leg kick after a slight recoil. He brings the bat through the strike zone level. He has a quick bat that should play well at the next level. He has advanced pitch recognition and projects to have solid plate discipline. While he won’t be known as a power-hitter, he could be a double-digit home run hitter in the majors. He should rack up the doubles and be a bat-first catcher.
As for his defense, Wong is a solid catcher. He didn’t start catching in college until 2015, but he has made great strides behind the plate. He works well with a pitching staff, has at least an average arm and is improving his framing. He’s so athletic — probably the most athletic backstop in the system — that he might eventually be a super utility player. He’s much closer to Austin Barnes and Will Smith than Keibert Ruiz as a catching prospect. If the catching spot is occupied by players ahead of him on the depth chart, perhaps second- or third base could be in his future. Maybe even shortstop (as he did before moving to catcher at Houston), but that’d be a stretch at this point. He’s a plus-runner, and not just for a catcher.
He only played in 28 games for Great Lakes, but going into his age-22 season, he should probably begin with Rancho Cucamonga. But if Ruiz begins the season there, having Wong get a bit of a refresher in Low-A wouldn’t be the worst thing. He profiles as an athletic, bat-first catcher or super utility player in the majors. If he hits and adds new positions to his profile, he could move quickly.
2017 rank: NR
2018 location: Low-A Great Lakes/High-A Rancho Cucamonga
17. RHP Jordan Sheffield (5’10, 190 pounds, 23 years old)
The Dodgers popped Sheffield with the 36th overall selection — the one received from failing to sign Kyle Funkhouser — in 2016. He signed for $1.85 million — $59,000 over slot. The Vanderbilt product threw just 12 innings in his debut season before jumping up to 107 1/3 this past season. He spent most of the season with Great Lakes, but finished the season with Rancho. Overall, he had a 4.70 ERA, 22.6 K%, 11.8 BB% and allowed 109 hits in those innings. He struggled with his command in 2017, leading to a rougher season than most were hoping (expecting) from him.
Armed with premium stuff, Sheffield definitely gets the most out of his offerings. He has a fastball that sits in the 93-95 MPH range and tops out in the high-90s. It features a little arm-side run, but it doesn’t do much to generate ground balls. His second-best pitch is a mid-to-high-80s changeup that features excellent depth and fade. He’ll throw it in any count to any hitter. He also has a slider that has shown flashes of being a better-than-average pitch, but it’s not as refined as his other pitches. Still, it’s improving and gives him a chance to remain in the starting rotation. This is my own speculation, but if he does have to convert to the bullpen, perhaps he could ditch the slider in favor of a cutter. He handles right-handed hitters better than lefties at this time.
Sheffield has a smaller frame for a starting pitcher, but he has been one for almost all his pro and college career. A high-effort/violent delivery has worked for him to this point. He has trouble repeating it, leading to inconsistent release points and fringe-average future command/control. At present, his command is below-average. Sheffield’s plus-arm speed means he can make up for some deficiencies in his delivery, but not all of them. He has a high three-quarters arm slot that helps him get a little run on his fastball and changeup. Because of the inconsistency, he might have to either ditch the wind-up all together (ala Alex Wood, Yu Darvish and others) or simplify it to be more repeatable. It’s already modified wind-up, but moving it to an exclusive stretch-only delivery might be worth a shot. He has the stuff to remain in a starting rotation, but the his frame and delivery make it difficult to see him in that role long-term. His athleticism plays in his favor, though.
Sheffield should begin the 2018 campaign with Rancho after throwing just 18 innings there last season. If he handles the assignment well enough, he should get a mid-to-late-season promotion to Double-A Tulsa. He has No. 2 starter stuff, but his command — until he proves otherwise — will hold him back. He could be a solid No. 4/5 starter or a lights-out multi-inning reliever.
2017 rank: NR
2018 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
16. 3B Cristian Santana (6’2, 211 pounds, 21 years old)
The Dodgers signed Santana out of the Dominican Republic for $50,000 late in the 2013-14 international signing period. He wasn’t terribly impressive in his first three professional seasons, but he really took off in 2017. After almost literally destroying Pioneer League pitching (.537/.583/1.000 — not a typo), he was promoted to the Great Lakes. He didn’t fare as well, obviously, but he still hit .322/.339/.460 in the pitcher-friendly league as a 20-year-old. He didn’t walk much and doesn’t have the kind of approach that’s conducive to walking, but he’ll have to show when he doesn’t hit that he could still be a contributor on offense.
Despite not walking much, Santana puts together quality at-bats. When he doesn’t get a hit, he at least makes the pitcher work. That is thanks in large part to cleaning up his stance and swing. Here’s what Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs wrote in his last Dodgers’ prospect list (November 2016):
“Santana has the most entertaining set-up I’ve ever seen: he kicks his front leg out in front of his body and points the tip of the bat toward the first-base dugout. I imagine he won’t be doing that for long, so treasure it while you can. Aside from that quirk and the fact that Santana takes hyper-aggressive hacks that cause him to swing and miss a ton, I really like him.”
In 2017, he ironed out a lot of the kinks. His setup is more traditional with his feet shoulder width apart and some pre-swing movement with his hands, but it isn’t as pronounced as it was in 2016. He’s a little more hunched over (in a good way) and has a little toe-tap but not much of a leg kick or stride. He generates plus-bat speed thanks to a quick load and fast hands. There’s some swing-and-miss in the approach, but he makes a good amount of contact. He has plus-raw power that should translate to game action, provided he continues to improve his approach and sticks with his newly refined swing. And it’s power to all fields, not just the pull side.
Defensively, Santana is plenty athletic and has a strong enough arm to play third base. He’s dabbled at all the infield positions in his career, but he’s best at third base. He has a chance to be a plus-defender with a plus-arm at the hot corner. He hasn’t played shortstop since the DSL, so he’s going to be most valuable as a third baseman. He’s a fringe-average runner, but he won’t clog the bases.
After an impressive 44 games in the Midwest League, a trip to the California League is next for Santana. He should play most of the season with the Quakes. He could be a first-division third baseman if the improvements continue on the hitting side. If not, he could be part of a platoon or a second-division starter at third.
2017 rank: 57
2018 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
15. LHP Caleb Ferguson (6’3, 215 pounds, 21 years old)
Ferguson was one of Logan White’s last draft picks as Dodger scouting director. He was a 38th-round pick who had Tommy John surgery in his senior season of high school. That allowed him to slip that low and to be signed for $100,000. After a strong, yet abbreviated, 2016 season, Ferguson had a strong showing in the Cal League in 2017. He got off to a bit of a rough start (4.08 ERA, 13 walks, 16 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings), but he still ended up with a strong final line. In 122 1/3 innings with Rancho, Ferguson posted a 2.87 ERA, 26.6 K%, 10.4 BB% and a .246 batting average against. He also only gave up six home runs, thanks to an excellent sinker-curveball combination. The command/control wavered a bit from the previous season (1.9 percent), but the stuff is still solid.
He works with a true sinker that has gained velocity since turning pro. It’s a low-90s offering and has even gotten as high as 95 MPH. It features hard, downward action that produces a fair number of grounders. It also produces swinging strikes. His best offspeed pitch is a mid-to-high-70s fastball. It’s a 12-6 offering and, like his sinker, gets grounders and swinging strikes. His changeup, however, isn’t anywhere near his other two pitches. It grades out at below-average currently and doesn’t project to be much more than average, but more likely it’ll be fringe-average. The numbers back it up, as he fared much better against left-handed hitters (.579 OPS) than right-handed hitters (.719 OPS). His sinker and curveball good enough to get him to the majors, but his role remains to be seen.
Ferguson works from the third base side of the pitching rubber. He comes set at the chest and begins his delivery. He drops his hands down to his belt before turning with a high leg kick. His arm drags behind the rest of his delivery, leading to some inconsistent release points and command. He has a high three-quarters arm slot and good arm speed to help make up for some of the drag.
He should get a nice test in the Texas League as a 21-year-old after passing his first A-ball tests. Despite the lack of a true third pitch and some delivery issues, Ferguson still has a mid-rotation starter with the frame to withstand the accompanying workload. If the third pitch and/or the command comes along, he could be a solid No. 3 starter. If it lags behind, he could be a back-end, innings-eating starter or multi-inning reliever.
2017 rank: NR
2018 location: Double-A Tulsa
14. SS/2B Gavin Lux (6’2, 190 pounds, 20 years old)
Lux was the Dodgers’ 1st-round selection (20th overall) in the 2016 draft out of Indian Trail Academy (Wisc.). He signed for $2.317 million — about $700 over slot. After a solid pro debut, his numbers weren’t great in the Midwest League, but when you dig deeper, there’s some room for optimism. He hit .244/.331/.362 with Great Lakes with an 11.2 BB% and 17.6 K%. He also swiped 27 bases in 37 attempts. In the first half, he had a .615 OPS. In the second half, it was .749, and six of his seven home runs came in the second half.
The left-handed swinger sets up with a normal base and a bend at the knees with his hands at about shoulder-level. He rests the bat on his shoulder briefly before bringing it back up as the pitcher is turning on the rubber. His front leg turns in a bit as he lifts it as he strides toward where the second baseman would play (instead of toward the mound). He has a compact swing and does a good job waiting on the ball. He has an up-the-middle approach that also goes toward the opposite field. His power — while it’s minimal — is all to the pull side. His level swing produces ground balls and line drives. He doesn’t elevate particularly well, even if his frame would suggest there’s some untapped power. He has one of the best eyes and some of the best plate discipline in the system. He’ll have to either improve that or make opposing pitchers afraid of his ability to do damage against pitches in the strike zone. Lux struggles against left-handed pitching, so to avoid becoming a platoon player, he’ll have to learn to hit lefties.
On defense, Lux was lauded for his defense at shortstop in high school. Since turning pro, he’s gotten a little less of a sure thing to stick at shortstop. He has a strong arm — strong enough to play anywhere on the infield — but his mechanics don’t align all the time, leading to throwing errors from shortstop. He has good instincts that help make up for it, but unless he cleans up his footwork and release, a move to second base might be in order. He has good range on the whole, but that doesn’t help with his mechanics. The good news is, he looks a lot better at that position than he does shortstop. He might be able to handle third base, but he might not hit enough to play the position in a full-time capacity. As a runner, he has plus-speed, but it doesn’t translate all that well to his defense. He could be a double-digit stolen base guy at the next level, ala Chase Utley (who actually isn’t the worst comp, minus the power).
He’ll get an opening day assignment to Rancho Cucamonga after spending all of 2017 with Great Lakes. Lux has 1st-round pedigree, but the results haven’t quite been there yet the field. There is some hope for optimism after a solid second half, but if he can’t stick at shortstop and turns into either a second baseman or utility infielder, that would hurt his value slightly. His big league future could be determined in the next two seasons.
2017 rank: 9
2018 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
13. OF Starling Heredia (6’0, 231 pounds, 19 years old)
The Dodgers gave Heredia, a Dominican native, a $2.6 million signing bonus as part of their 2015-16 international spending spree. His first season as a 17-year-old in the DSL was solid (.721), but he made strides in his age-18 season, all spent stateside and across three minor-league levels. Overall, he hit .325/.397/.555 with seven home runs and 19 doubles, 10.2 BB% and a 29.5 K% in 234 plate appearances. A little troubling is how much he struggled in Great Lakes (.212/.291/.323) after ripping through rookie ball. He’ll have to prove he wasn’t just taking advantage of young pitchers.
A stout right-handed hitter, Heredia has plus-raw power. He hits tape measure homers in batting practice, and while it hasn’t fully translated to in-game performance, many believe it will be his calling card as a hitter. His high strikeout rate shows there’s a lot of swing-and-miss in his swing, but he also displayed some solid on-base skills as a teenager. He sets up with a wide base and his hands at stomach level before bringing them up to his shoulder. His stance is quiet with just the slightest bat wiggle. He recoils on his back leg and lifts his front foot to help him generate a powerful swing. He gets the foot down quickly and brings the bat through the strike zone with a slight uppercut. His timing gets off sometimes, and that causes him to swing through some hittable pitches. While he’s not related, he’s the spitting image of Juan Uribe in terms of physical stature and his swing. The ball jumps off his bat and he has power to all fields. The tools are loud, but the swing definitely has some whiff potential.
He’s strictly a corner outfielder on defense. He has strong arm that is good enough for right field, but he has played mostly left field in his pro career to date. He’s quick for his size, but he’s a “choppy” runner. That speed and quickness will likely diminish as he gets older. He might be able to swipe a few bags, but he won’t be a base stealer.
A return to Great Lakes to begin 2018 wouldn’t be the worst thing for the still-teenager. He should get a promotion to Rancho Cucamonga after 2-3 months. He has first-division corner outfielder upside, especially if he continues to hit right-handers well. He’ll likely settle into more of a second-division starter or the right-handed side of a platoon. If he handles advanced pitching well, then his prospect grade could rise.
2017 rank: 24
2018 location: Low-A Great Lakes/High-A Rancho Cucamonga
12. OF DJ Peters (6’6, 225 pounds, 22 years old)
Peters was the Dodgers’ 4th-round draft pick in 2016 out of Western Nevada College. He signed for $442,400 — almost $200,000 over slot. After ripping through the Pioneer League in his debut season, Peters skipped Low-A and went straight to High-A. There he won the league MVP by posting a .276/.372/.514 triple slash with 27 home runs, a 10.9 BB% and an eye-popping (concerning) 32.2 K%. He benefited from an unsustainable .385 BABIP, but he also displayed plus-power with a .238 ISO. He hit just .190 in the Arizona Fall League, but it isn’t uncommon for prospects there at the end of a long season.
A large human being, Peters has drawn (lazy) comps to Jayson Werth. He comes to him only physically, and if Peters is anything close to what Werth was in his MLB career, the Dodgers would be extremely fortunate. He sets up with a wide base and his hands up at head level. He wiggles the bat pre-pitch and he rocks back-and-forth slightly. He has a quick load and leg kick. He’s incredibly strong and produces above-average bat speed. He’s a fly ball hitter, so there’s some uppercut in his swing. But he makes loud contact and drives the ball all over the field. The raw power is double-plus and he has shown some of it in game action. He could be a 20-25 home run hitter at the next level. He has a lot of “long levers,” as Dave Roberts called it. He’ll probably always be a bit susceptible to the inside pitch, but he covers the rest of the plate well. While there’s a lot of swing-and-miss potential in the swing, he also has a good eye and will work the count. He wont win any batting titles, but he could be an average hitter in the majors with a fair number of walks and a lot of strikeouts.
Peters has played mostly center field in his pro career thus far. He’s a premium athlete with good speed underway. He can probably handle center field in a pinch or on a part-time basis, but he fits much better in a corner. He has plenty of arm for right field and he should hit plenty for either corner. He won’t steal a lot of bases, but he has surprisingly good speed that helps him more in the outfield rather than stealing bases.
There’s not much left for him to prove in A-ball, so he’ll get an assignment to Double-A Tulsa, where he should be the starting center fielder for the Drillers. If he hits well enough, he could not only earn a promotion to Triple-A, but really improve his prospect status. It isn’t dissimilar to what Cody Bellinger went through after his MVP-like run through the Cal League a few years ago. Peters could be an every day corner outfielder if he can reduce his strikeout rate against advanced competition. It’s a tall task, and we’ll see if Peters is up to it.
2017 rank: 19
2018 location: Double-A Tulsa
11. RHP Dustin May (6’6, 180 pounds, 20 years old)
The Dodgers selected May in the 3rd round of 2016 draft out of Northwest High School in Texas. They gave him a $1 million signing bonus — almost $400,000 over slot. He began his pro career in the AZL, as most high school draftees do. Instead of going to Ogden to open 2017, he was sent to Great Lakes and handled things well. He spent all but 11 innings there, and the 11 came with Rancho. He tallied 134 innings and posted a 3.63 ERA, 22.6 K%, 4.7 BB% and a .242 batting average against. As a 19-year-old, it was an impressive performance. He re-aggravated a lat injury in his final appearance of the 2017 season, but it shouldn’t have a long-last effect.
May is armed with two above-average pitches that have flashed plus, as well as a workable third pitch. He throws a 4- and 2-seam fastball. The former sits in the 92-95 MPH range and touches 97 at times. The latter is a low-90s offering that gets a fair amount of ground balls. His primary offspeed pitch is a sweeping low-80s slider that features good depth. He can spin it a couple different ways, giving hitters a different look. He could also turn it more into a curveball, but for now, it’s a slider. His low-80s changeup is a work in progress and needs more refinement to be a viable true third pitch going forward.
He’s 180 pounds soaking wet, but his 6’6 frame lends itself to projectability. He didn’t add much weight in his second pro season, which is a little cause for concern. While he’s plenty tall, he might always be a lanky pitcher. May stands on the first base side of the rubber with his feet point toward the third base on-deck circle. His glove covers his face almost entirely before he begins his delivery. He drops his hands as he steps starts his delivery. He has an extremely high leg kick where his knee comes up to almost shoulder-level. He brings it back down and whips his arm through his motion. He has a quick arm that makes up for any drag, and he release the pitch from a high three-quarters arm slot. He has some crossfire/sling in his delivery, but he does a relatively good job hiding the ball. He has some of the best command/control of any pitcher in the system, but his delivery isn’t super easy to repeat, so that’s something he’ll have to be mindful of as he progresses through the minors.
Entering his age-20 season, there’s no reason to rush him to Double-A. A full season in High-A might be for the best. If he handles it well enough, a mid-to-late-season promotion to Tulsa could be in order, but if he sticks with Rancho the entire season, that wouldn’t be surprising. He has the ceiling of a low-end No. 2/high-end No. 3 starter. If his changeup doesn’t progress, he could be a back-end starter or long relief option, but the Dodgers think highly of this kid and it’s easy to see why.
2017 rank: 21
2018 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga/Double-A Tulsa
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