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jonathan gray oklahomaIf you were looking for someone with decision-making authority on the baseball side in the Chicago Cubs’ organization yesterday, you were going to have to go somewhere other than Chicago (or Pittsburgh).

President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, General Manager Jed Hoyer, Scouting and Player Development Chief Jason McLeod, and Amateur Scouting Director Jaron Madison were all at the University of Oklahoma yesterday to meet with prospective first round pick Jonathan Gray, per Cubs.com. The big Sooner pitcher could be the number one or number two pick in this year’s draft, which begins June 6, and very few believe there’s even a chance he slips to number three. That’s obviously important to the Cubs, since they pick second.

In that regard, to find the Cubs visiting Gray with the top men in the front office should be no surprise. It doesn’t mean the Cubs are putting the full-court press on Gray – pre-Draft deals are not permitted (technically) – or that they expect he’ll necessarily be their pick. Instead, I’d imagine that they’re doing the final stages of due diligence on a guy that could legitimately be their pick. Indeed, I’d expect similar visits to Stanford righty Mark Appel, and maybe San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant.

The Cubs’ number two overall pick of is of critical import to the long-term rebuilding process, and they can’t afford to whiff. To that end, they’re going to make sure they know everything they possibly can about any player they consider selecting.

That said, the fact that the Cubs are making this kind of visit to see Gray this close to the Draft confirms that he could be the guy, if he’s still on the board at number two. Not that the Cubs’ interest at this point was a secret or in doubt.

  • babe ruth

    we need appel

  • http://bleachernation Bsteady

    i want appel too

  • KidCubbie

    I would rather have Gray or Bryant.

    • Myles

      Besides Bryant, you know else came out of the University of San Diego? Mark Prior.

      • Jp3

        Huh?? USC and San Diego merge recently?

        • Myles

          Shoot. He went to a San Diego high school. That’s what I was thinking.

          • Jp3

            Ahh… Where did Strasburg go to College? San Diego something I think…

            • willis

              SDSU…

      • ssckelley

        AJ Griffin

      • patrick

        incorrect. Prior went to USC

        • Myles

          Yep, I already got schooled on that. I was thinking about his high school.

  • Chad

    I think it is a crap shoot between Appel, Bryant, and Gray. Each has upside and a certain floor, but those are different. Each fill a need, but each projects differently for time of impact and possibly level of impact. I have no idea what the cubs will do and am anxious to see, but we won’t know if it was the right decision or not for probably 5 years.

  • http://www.obstructedview.net Myles

    appel is delicious but my heart is gray, cubs have been second more often than william jennings bryan(t)

    • LouBrown

      As the Cubs continue to crucify us on a cross of ivy…

  • chrisfchi

    After watching video of both appel and grey, I prefer gray. That fastball launches out of his hands like a cannonball.

  • IrvingAndAshland

    Is Bryant really a consideration do you think? I know he has all the tools to be a +big league third baseman one day but at this point in the Cubs rebuilding process isn’t it time to see if we can hit a home run on a dominant young starter from college that could help as early as 2015? Don’t know much about the difference between Appel and Gray but I think we almost have to go starting pitching. I feel like we have enough young position players at this point

    (well you can never have enough but, you know..)

    • http://bigleaguefutures.net Kevin Gallo

      I believe Bryant is very much in the mix. I also think are targeting Jason Hursh as their 2nd round pick.

      • Wrigley11

        I know Hursh is coming off TJ, do you think he could stay a starter? His fastball is a plus pitch, how are his secondaries?

        • http://bigleaguefutures.net Kevin Gallo

          he should be able to stay at as a SP. His secondary are average to plus.

    • sclem21

      could help as early as 2015?

      Many think Appel could pitch in the bigs as early as Sept of 2013…and both of them should find a chance in a rotation by 2014

  • http://bigleaguefutures.net Kevin Gallo

    They are planning on visiting Appel and Bryant before the draft.

  • Lance Dickson

    Does anyone still think that the Cubs might go for a highschool bat? What about Mcleod’s comments on highschool bats being the best bet for greatness at the top of a draft? Pitchers seem to have high rates of gettting hurt, and when they get hurt they do not seem to come back as good as new. I am not saying that Gray and Appel do not both have high ceilings and high floors. They just have a greater chance of having a single injury destroy their careers.

    Hitters can be more resiliant. It just seems to me that Austin Meadows (despite some of the recent criticism) might be their best chance at a special player. He could be a great lefty bat in leftfield for a long time.

    Thoughts?

    • Kyle

      Anything is possible, but the high school bats just don’t seem to be up to the quality of the No. 2 pick this year.

      I wish there was one worth taking. I hate drafting a pitcher this high.

    • another JP

      No chance the Cubs take a HS player in the first round this year. Top three talents are in college and they need impact pitching and more power in the lineup. If they want a bat Bryant is their guy, otherwise they’ll prolly go with Appel.

  • The Other Matt

    I’m going with Bryant, so we don’t have to hear about Tommy John surgery in 2 years.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      So then we’ll just hear how Bryant can’t hit a good AA breaking ball or offspeed pitch in 1 year.

      • http://bigleaguefutures.net Kevin Gallo

        I have seen him hit BB and CU graded out has 60 at least.

        • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          Kevin, you’re a bit higher on him than anyone I’ve seen. A college BB and CU are not equal to AA breaking balls and ChangeUps.
          I’m sorry, I just can’t agree with you when you say he’s at least a close version to Ryan Braun….and a current 55/80 hit/power. That’s a once in a generation draft talent, and he’s not even the consensus top pick in this years “weak” draft pool.

          • http://bigleaguefutures.net Kevin Gallo

            Because I have seen all 3 and have talked to scouts (including one from a certain). My grades are not just from me, Todd Gold and about 4 other scouts in SoCal had the same grading.

            • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

              Understood…but that’s gotta be the very minority opinion otherwise he would be in a league with Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg as the no doubt, sure thing, obvious choice at 1/1.

              • http://bigleaguefutures.net Kevin Gallo

                The question for some is a position and that is a physical, because some people believe he is just too big for 3B. I don’t but at the very least he is a OFer with great offensive numbers and a cannon of an arm.

                • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

                  Yeah, but a current 55 hit/80 power, that’s a 1/1 pick every year, no matter the position. Even a DH-only.

                  • North Side Irish

                    Was this you?

                    Norm (Chicago)
                    Thoughts on Kris Bryant as a CURRENT 55 hit, 80 power? Wouldn’t that equate to a Bryce Harper/Stephen Strasburg level of no-doubt, sure thing 1/1 pick?

                    Klaw (1:18 PM)
                    That’s absurd. That’s saying he’d come to the majors right now and hit .280+ with 35-40 bombs. No bleeping way.

                  • JB88

                    Has Kevin or anyone said that Bryant is a CURRENT 55/80 or that he projects as an 80? I seem to recall it being the later, not that he currently has 80 power.

                    • Kevin Gallo

                      KLaw is also the man that said Dominic Smith is the most overrated hitter in the draft then started saying he was the 10th best player a week late. 55 is 260 to 265.

          • MichiganGoat

            I’m still search about this 80-power rating, that puts him in a very high class of players. What I’ve been searching for is a list of players that have been give 80-power ratings and see how many of them bust. So far I can’t find anything but All-star players that have been given a 80-power rating. I’m still searching for the player that busted with a 80-power rating. There is a thread over on the message board discussing this question.

            • DarthHater

              You might find some helpful data at http://baseballnewshound.com/

              They appear to have lots of tables and spreadsheets with scouting ratings.

              However, I also think you may be asking the wrong question. Even if every 80-power guy is quite likely to be a ML star, we still don’t know if Bryant really is a 80-power guy. We know that one scout rated him 80, but I also saw another online who gave him 70 power. That’s Vogelbach territory, rather than Stanton territory. My guess is that for sure-fire guys like Stanton and Harper, there’s a consensus among scouts on the 80-power rating. If there’s no similar consensus for Bryant, then he may not be in that high a category of prospects.

              • MichiganGoat

                Darth I agree the real question is: IS BRYANT A TRUE 80-POWER? And it is the question I hope the FO is exploring exhaustively, because if he is a true 80-power he should be drafted without looking back.

  • ssckelley

    Gray scares me, he came out of nowhere while Appel has been successful for a longer period of time against good competition. My top 3:

    1. Appel
    2. Bryant
    3. Gray

    • Scotti

      He didn’t come out of nowhere, he’s a Jr. who has always been highly thought of. The additional mph has been gradual and that’s what you want. Appel and Bryant have gone through similar discoveries.

    • Cub Style

      Lots of stud pitchers have a coming out party in their final year in school or in Cape Cod.

  • Idaho Razorback

    I want Gray but I want to know why Arkansas pitcher Ryne Stanek is not getting any love. In the preseason he was mentioned as one of the top pitchers available in the draft. This season he is 8-2 with an ERA of 1.54, SEC ERA is 0.97 and his road record is 4-0 with an ERA of 0.98. He pitches against LSU today in the SEC tournament in Hoover, Alabama.

    • Dynastyin2017

      Those stats are nice, but apparently his command has been all over the place. I’ve heard he’s been better as of late.

  • DaveY

    One thing to remember about Epstien, McLeod and Hoyer, they love the high character guys. Rizzo and Almora are proof of that. Not only will they examine all potential first round picks for talent and athleticism but personality and character too. If they find any one or all of Appel, Gray or Bryant to be jerks or loafers or perhaps they fall in love with someone else’s ethic and character then don’t be surprised if they take a seemingly lesser talent or athlete with the number two pick.

    • Voice of Reason

      Then why did they trade for Ian Stewart?

  • KidCubbie

    The way i see it, the Cubs have good pitching now with a chance to lock up Garza and Shark for a while. Even with our good pitching staff we can’t score the runs needed to win games (i know this has a lot to do with a poopy bullpen too). What is one more good starter going to accomplish? If Bryant is as good as everyone says then he has a chance to come up to the bigs fairly quickly while we still have a good staff. With the crop of good position players coming up we could have a fearsome lineup to go with a good pitching staff. Look at Texas, they have great hitters throughout the lineup. That’s what the Cubs could have with drafting Bryant. Plus they could go heavy on pitching later in the draft and get some diamonds in the rough.

    • ssckelley

      There is one thing I am certain of, that the Cubs FO are not going to let the needs of the MLB team dictate who they draft. I feel the Cubs are going to take who they feel is the best player remaining after the Astros pick.

      • KidCubbie

        I agree with that. I would be a little disappointed if they did let the team dictate how they drafted. I’m just saying that it would be a good way to look at things if they thought the position player was the strongest pick at #2.

        • ssckelley

          I just want the Cubs to take the player that will have the best MLB career regardless if it is a pitcher or a position player. I would rather see the Cubs take a chance on another Mark Prior (2nd overall, 2001) than take another Josh Vitters (3rd overall, 2007). I know Prior ended up hurt, that is the chance you will take on anyone, but for a couple of seasons he dominated. But if Bryant is the next Mark Teixeira (5th overall, 2001) then pass on the next Mark Prior.

          The neat thing about comparing this draft to 2001 is the Astros could do exactly what the Twins did in that draft and take who they feel will sign for less money with the top overall pick. That would leave the Cubs with a very tough decision, hopefully 12 years later we are not looking back wishing they would have selected one player over the other. You would think at some point the Cubs luck will finally change in the 1st round.

          • KidCubbie

            I feel ya. You can’t swing and miss all the time right?

          • DaveY

            Josh Vitters was the best player available at the time. So was Corey Patterson, Luis Montanez, Kerry Wood.. Not until Hayden Simpson did the Cubs take a player who at least was not debateably the best player available.

            • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

              eh, Montanez was not. Tyler Colvin was not.

              • DocPeterWimsey

                Nor was Vitters.

                • ssckelley

                  Vitters was considered one of the top high school position players in that draft, he was not much of a reach.

                • Dynastyin2017

                  Yeah, who would want a switch hitting catcher?

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                Yep. Colvin was a budget pick to free up cash for Samardzija.

                Montanez was well liked by a select few. His choice wasn’t a huge reach. A reach, but nothing on the Colvin/Simpson scale.

            • ssckelley

              So you saying the Cubs luck will start changing when it comes to drafting in the first round? Of those players you mentioned, based on career WAR, Kerry Wood is the pitcher the Cubs ever drafted and Corey Patterson was the 5th best position player the Cubs ever drafted in the first round.

    • Jim

      I have heard mention that they don’t think Bryant will remain at 3B. Not sure if that is true or not, but one rumor had the Rockies picking him (if still on the board) and for him to be the heir apparent to Todd Helton at 1B. Obviously 1B is not a need for us, so maybe he could stick at 3B or even move to the outfield. But I would place my money on Appel or Gray for the pick.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Well, Bryant is huge: he’s 6’5″ or something. With someone so tall, you worry about how the constant infield crouch will affect his back over the long haul. An even bigger concern is that 3Bmen probably dive for balls more than anybody else: and those extra inches mean just that much more transfer of momentum when his torso hits the ground.

        Still, Bryant seems to project as an excellent batter, and first-round batters historically have been so much more successful than first-round pitchers. I have to admit, I don’t entirely envy the Cubs brass here: this is a tough choice to make!

        • Rebuilding

          It is a tough choice. Most everyone seems to have Appel and Gray as best players available over Bryant. With that said, the chasm doesn’t seem to be a no doubter. The FO has said time and again that they prefer position players in the first round because of the lower injury/bust factor. It’s very hard first of all to compare hitters to pitchers and then to quantify that difference. For instance, if they think Gray is slightly better than Bryant would they still take the hitter given their preference? Who knows

    • Voice of Reason

      kidcubbie:

      You can never have enough good starting pitching. If the Cubs rotation has too many good starters (maybe has never happened in the history of baseball) then you can trade away one of the arms to get a position player that is really good in return.

      The Cubs have more holes to fill than Swiss cheese. I want them to take the best available player in their eyes.

      And, everyone please forget about Matt Garza. He needs to go. Too many innings on that arm and it’s starting to show.

      We need to keep stocking the minor league shelves. He should bring something decent in return. There is a plan and we need to stick to it.

  • Leo

    Bret, the Cubs made their two most recent minor trades that were described as for PTBNL or cash. Can that cash = IFA pool money or would it specifically have to say that?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      IFA pool money would have been specified as such.

  • Jason

    If the Cubs plan to extend Garza and try to trade for Price I say take Bryant as your rotation would then have Price, Shark, Garza, Jackson in it already.

    However, if the objective is to trade Garza or not trade for Price I think you have to take one of the two pitchers.

    • ssckelley

      What the Cubs decide to do with Garza has nothing to do with who they select with the #2 overall pick in the draft.

    • Kyle

      You can’t let the major league roster influence your draft. You have to simply take the player you think is best use of the pick in a vacuum.

      • DarthHater

        In a vacuum, nobody can get any movement on a pitch, so I’d definitely stick to position players. :-P

  • LouBrown

    I will be happy with any of the three. There are pluses and minuses to each, and with the uncertainty around drafting I can’t see a clear winner. Appel gets favorable comp to Mark Prior, Gray and Bryant each have an “80″ under their belt. However If we draft a pitcher, I will be making a sacrifice and a prayer to the god of elbows and shoulders.

  • waffle

    I am leaning Bryant recently and not sure why. I think the strategy of position players high then load up on the arms is a sound one. And boy would I love another high impact bat in the minors.

  • Chad

    You can’t let need at the ML level dictate your pick. If you say that the rotation is great with Samardzija, Garza, Jackson, and Wood so why pick a guy like Gray who could be an Ace, or Appel who is a solid #3 or #2 all day long. Well even if you can resign Garza there is no saying how long/how good these guys will be in the future. Whoever the cubs pick this year is going to be a young/controllable player for a long time, and you have to build pitching rotation as well as young bats this way. You pick based on best player available or one that has the best chance to “make it”. Not based on need.

  • Leo

    Remember, the philosophy is to try and acquire difference makers.  They’ll let the rest sort itself out over time either the Cubs will have some attrition where some prospects fail, so having multiple good players at a position will increase the odds that one of them will succeed or, if they are really lucky, they will end up with surplus at a position and the flexibility to trade prospect depth for help with the major league club or perhaps, swap prospect depth at one position for equally rated prospects that better fill areas of organizational need.
    In essence, what the Cubs want to do is acquire impact talent regardless of position and will spend and/or acquire whatever resources they need to do that.  The goal is to  find 2 or 3 potential big impact players to build around, figuring it’s much easier to acquire supporting role players, whether that is through free agency, trades, or within their own system.

  • CubFan Paul

    Gray has Major League reliever written all over him to me. Just a hunch. Houston won’t take either pitcher to save money, so smart money is on Appel to us.

  • chris

    An arm will go to the Cubs and I hope its Gray. A power arm that guns upper 90′s and 100 falls in line with needing top of the rotation type prospects. Cubs don’t have one in the entire organization. 10 number 3′s won’t cut it. Cubs need a top of the rotation talent in the system because free agency at this point is too early to spend that kind of money for one. My second choice would be the power bat 3rd baseman.

  • Cubs82

    I think we need to draft either Appel or Gray in the draft they are best players period.We need an ace we dont have an ace in our rotation plus its very dificult to get an ace pitcher these days.all the other mlb teams are locking up their aces.

  • Rich

    I agree! Draft the best pitcher in that first spot…I was looking at the best pitchers statistically at MLB.com…then looking when they were drafted…so I think the 2nd and 3rd rounds can be just as exciting..Not every top pitcher obviously was a top ten pick..

    I dont think Appel or Gray is a bad choice..for some reason I think Astros take Gray…

  • Chad

    Not every ace is a top ten pick, but if you think they can be an ace I think you better take them.
    Verlander: #2 pick in 2004
    Weaver: #12 in 2004
    Strasburg: #1 in 2009
    Wainwright” #29 in 2000
    Price: #1 2007
    Halladay: #17 1995
    Santana: #2 1995
    Kershaw: #7 2006

    These are just a few current and recent Aces that were taken in the first round. If you think a guy like Gray or Appel can be this good you’d better take him.

    Those were hand picked examples, I know a lot of examples of guys that bust in the 1st round, or aces from nowhere, but I don’t see a reason to not take them if you think they can be that good.

    • Cyranojoe

      Unfortunately, nobody’s projecting Gray or Appel to be as good as Verlander or Strasburg. Many people are suggesting they’re more likely to be #2-3 pitchers, and Gray might even end up in a bullpen. That is, of course, assuming they make it to the majors at all. Not a huge risk of flameout, it sounds like, but it’s a question of risk, and if you’re risk-averse, you go for the guy with the higher floor and longer record of success (Appel), or you go for the best position player.

      • Scotti

        If you draft a pitcher and he blows his arm out you lose $7 million. If you sign a top free agent arm and he blows his arm out you lose upwards of $170 million. Do the math and draft top pitching and sign top positional players as free agents.

  • Rich

    no doubt that Appel and Gray are the gems and you pick them..

  • WI Jeff

    Hi Chad:

    What is the success rate in round one for Pitchers and for position players. I here the percentages are greater toward position players, but how divergent are the numbers.

    Also, do you or anyone else have the time to show the “Meh” pitchers in the first round and guys out of baseball to support your thoughts above. (ie) using 2004,if we don’t get a Verlander, do we get
    3. Philip Humber New York Mets RHP Rice University
    4 Jeff Niemann Tampa Bay Devil Rays RHP Rice University
    or
    5 Mark Rogers Milwaukee Brewers RHP Mount Ararat High School (ME)
    6 Jeremy Sowers Cleavland Indians
    or
    10 Thomas Diamond….

    There are discussions to be more like Texas with a stronger line up and good pitching or an awesome pitching staff and a satisfactory line up. Who knows who blossoms and who fails, but it becomes percentages. Its a good read and has me curious between Appel Gray and Bryant

    • Chad

      I hear what you are saying and I don’t have those numbers and I don’t plan on looking all that up, but yes I would say odds are higher for a position player to make it, but anyone can be a bust or a flame out. I would say my thoughts are this. I’m just saying if you have an ace he was probably a pretty good prospect. Yes some #1 picks that are pitchers flame out, but the same can be said for position players. So, if the cubs think one can become a foundation starter for the cubs I think you go pitching, but if there are a lot of question marks you go position player.

    • another JP

      Here’s a good source regarding success rates for top 100 prospects:

      http://www.royalsreview.com/2011/2/14/1992424/success-and-failure-rates-of-top-mlb-prospects

      According to this and other articles I’ve read, it’s better to take the high impact position player.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Better might be debatable, but it is certainly safer.

      • ssckelley

        Perhaps that will be the reason the Cubs end up selecting Bryant. I keep comparing 2001, the last time the Cubs were #2, and I am sure we would all go back and take Mark Teixeira over Prior. Back in 2001 Prior was considered the best pitcher to have ever come out of college, I think he went 15-1 at USC that year. Teixeira was widely considered to be the top position player, I don’t know if they graded him with 80 power but very similar to Bryant. But you look at other drafts and see pitchers taken like Price and Strasburg, so there is no exact science.

        But you look at the history of the #1 and #2 overall picks position players give you the best odds of success. This will be the 4th time the Cubs have ever drafted #2 overall and the most successful was Joe Carter. You look at the history of the #1 picks the Cubs have ever made and they have had the best success drafting position players. The best pitcher the Cubs ever drafted was Kerry Wood, who had a career WAR of 27.7 while the best position player was Rafael Palmeiro with a 71.8 WAR. The average WAR of all the players drafted in the first round favors the position players.

        So if you are going to use history in order to decide between Appel, Gray, or Bryant then it appears Bryant is the choice.

        • Eternal Pessimist

          But they test for steroids now, so….

          • ssckelley

            I am confused by that comment, you suggesting Bryant is taking something?

            • Dynastyin2017

              Can’t be sure, nut I think he’s insinuating position players from previous drafts were ‘medically inhanced’, explaining their better value. (like that wasn’t happening with pitchers).

            • cubchymyst

              I believe that was a Palmeiro reference since he was busted for steroid use.

              • ssckelley

                But I do not see where that changes the fact that based on WAR Palmeiro was the best position player the Cubs have ever drafted. Obviously there were a lot of players cheating over that period of time yet their stats and results still count in the record books.

        • bbmoney

          Goodness I hope our front office doesn’t based their current draft decision on drafting history, and just goes with who they think the BPA is.

  • Cubs82

    I really think both of them will be an ace thats why Theo and company are planning to draft either one of them because they know that they have aces potential and they are the best players available If they believe they dont have ace potential then they would draft Bryant or Moran.

  • patrick

    Get Arms… (we have bats in the system) Prefer Appel but wouldnt mind Gray. We need SP. Jackson, Garza, Shark, wood arnt gonna bring a WS to the northside. Thats if they are even on the Cubs in 2-3 years!!

    • Cyranojoe

      Not that I’m really rooting for Bryant, but… we don’t have any 80 power bats in the system. Vogelbach included.

  • MichiganGoat

    This pick might be the most important pick the Cubs have ever made. With the new CBA changing how teams are drafting, how teams are extending young players, and combine that with how LA has shown every team that you can’t buy a playoff caliber team. The Cubs can’t let this number two pick turn into a bust. They shouldn’t have another early pick like this with the Astros and Marlins spending a MiLB payroll on their MLB roster. This is the highest pick that the Cubs will have for years.

    If this pick busts it puts the rebuild plan a step back. I’m really hoping for Bryant because of the success rate of 80-power players, but if the FO believes that the rating is correct then so be it. But if any of the players picked after the Cubs turns into the next All-Star then this draft will be another black eye on the Cubs and this FO. Picks will bust, they all can’t be stars, but this pick cannot be a bust.

    • Dynastyin2017

      Goat, any draft pick a team that hasn’t won a championship in a 100+ years is important. I actually see a bit of luck having the #2 in this particular draft. First, how often does a draft’s strength align with team needs? We need impact arms and power bats. Tada? Secondly, they need players closer to the majors. This drafts top 3 are all college guys. BottaBoom! And, lastly, all three are rated fairly equally, so which ever one you pick has the same chance as the others. Yea!
      What we shouldn’t do is be unfair to the FO on this pick. If they choose one of Appel/Gray/Bryant, and the ones they don’t choose become better players, it’s really just bad luck. Now, if they pull a Bear’s move and draft someone with a 4th round grade at 1-2, they deserve the BN wrath.
      That being said, if they don’t get a core player (or someone they can trade for a core player), it will set us back a bit.
      Most important pick ever? No. Most important decision they make this year? Maybe.

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