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The Twins Bought Low on Austin Martin


The Twins pulled off quite the swap to acquire two top 100 prospects for Jose Berrios at the deadline in Simeon Woods-Richardson and Austin Martin. In the case of the latter, however, the front office saw an opportunity to buy at reduced cost and took advantage.

Austin Martin is a highly-regarded prospect and has been since well before he was drafted 5th overall by Toronto in 2020. Many evaluators even saw Martin as the top hitter of the entire draft. He was arguably the most talented prospect to change jerseys at this year’s deadline as well. Making it all the more incredible is the Twins not only received Martin in their Berrios deal, but also another top 100 prospect in right handed pitcher Simeon Woods-Richardson. It seemed too good to be true at the time, and it may be worthwhile to consider how the Twins talked the Blue Jays into parting with a player who was drafted 5th overall just a year ago.

Contact Concerns
In his senior season at Vanderbilt, Austin Martin struck out just twice in 69 plate appearances against some of the best collegiate pitching in the country. It set him apart from the typical college masher as a savant when it came to bat-to-ball skills. Such a skillset comes with a high floor which is likely why Toronto was aggressive enough to assign Martin to AA in his professional debut in 2021.

His 2021 season hasn’t been a complete disaster, but it has raised some eyebrows. Martin has struck out over 20% of the time which was an outcome not many scouts saw coming. Some attribute it to his passive approach which while leading him to a near 15% walk rate, may also get him unnecessarily deep into counts that he can’t battle his way out of. Martin may need to find a happy medium between drawing his walks and being just aggressive enough to take advantage of hittable pitches early in counts.

 

Impacting the Baseball:
You typically hear of prospects “flashing plus power”, whereas Martin has been cited to flash average power. Given his eye at the plate and impressive bat-to-ball skills, the Twins won’t need him to become a 40 home run hitter in order to be a success. That being said, his .383 slugging % in 2021 paired with an 8 mph drop in average exit velocity has been enough to cause worry among some scouts. It’s easier to develop power as a player ages than it is elite contact ability, and the Twins will be counting on Martin to do so to some extent as he continues to inch closer to the Major League level.

 

Defensive Future:
By almost all accounts, Martin is not the Twins shortstop of the future. While athletic and soft handed, his arm may be lacking for the most important position in the infield. While listed as a shortstop, he played third base for much of his senior year before being moved to center field due to throwing issues by year’s end. Scouts have yet to come to much of a conclusion in regards to Austin Martin the center fielder.

The Twins will surely get a closer look at their new top two prospect at shortstop, but don’t be surprised to see them pivot to trying him as an heir to the center field position in the case of a Buxton departure. A player of such a skillset just doesn’t slot in well to the traditionally power-heavy corner positions in the outfield. Such a lack of clarity on a defensive future is enough to rub some of the prospect shine away on a 22 year old. 

 

Austin Martin is certainly an incredibly exciting prospect and one that isn’t too far off from the Majors in all likelihood. There are further questions that have been raised in the last year about his ceiling however that without a doubt contributed to the Twins ability to receive both him and a highly-regarded pitching prospect. 

The front office admitted they were enormous fans of Martin during the 2020 draft but had no shot at drafting him. While his stock hasn’t crashed, Falvine and company have bought relatively low on a prospect that caught their eye a year ago and now have the opportunity to develop a possible cornerstone of the next great Minnesota Twins team. Can the Twins come out on the winning end of the gamble they made on trading away their home grown ace?

 

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I think it is hard to say they bought low on a guy that is in his first season of pro ball, and has improved each month in terms of average and OBP.  He is also 2 years younger than average age level he is at.  He also has reduced his K's each month.  May, was 24k to 9 walks.  June was 19K to 13 walks and July was 10K to 15 walks, with a .500 OBP. 

Yes, slugging is an issue, and lack of clear defensive position, but for a guy that is young for the league, had not played pro ball, with wood bat before, and had long time off, he is making big strides each month.  

Personally, I would not say this is buying low on a guy.  It is not like he has spent a few years in pro ball and never had a breakout.  Hopefully he can increase his power some, but that OBP is crazy good, and having more walks than K's is always a plus too.  

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I think these points are not anything to be too worried about at this point.  

Contact: I don't think it's overly surprising for Martin's strikeout rate to increase being thrust straight into AA. He's more than held his own at AA as a 22 year old and think his offensive profile as an OBP machine has not changed. Let's get more of a minor league sample size without the injury before we worry too much here. 

Impacting the Baseball: This to me will be something to keep an eye on, but I think it's still too limited of a sample size (including the hand injury), to overly speculate with. If he can get to Starling Marte level power then he will be a very helpful player. His college exit velos were excellent, and there's no reason one year away should change that perception too much. Keith Law mentioned that his swing with the injury has caused more of an inside out swing, which naturally would create less power. Let's see where things go once the hand injury heals in the offseason.

Defense: I think we have a tendency to over analyze defense on these forums to the point where we begin playing a player who can't hit just for the sake of SS defense. I think Martin has a lot of utility (like Arraez) to have defensive flexibility at CF/2B/3B/LF. He does not profile well as a corner outfielder, but would still be a great addition for days where Kepler/Larnach need a day off.  Polanco and Arraez will probably be in the ballpark of 3+ WAR players for the forseeable future, but leveraging where they play with Martin could create an incredible top of the lineup. Even if we re-sign Buxton, we know he will miss time so this is a nice player to have who can be a 2-3 WAR swiss army knife who may be a slightly better version of Arraez. 

In my opinion, Martin (like Arraez) fits a huge need for the future offense in having table setters for our power hitters. The 2020 and 2021 Twins have had issues with having to out-homer there competition, which to me is not good baseball. I think Arraez, Polanco, and Martin will be excellent future compliments to the way Falvine wants to build out the middle of the order, and I don't think these shortcomings listed by scouts are anything to be too worried about at this stage.

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This is going to be a patience game. Let players like Martin develop, and give them time to work through their challenges as they break into MLB. The idea of competing for the division in 2022 or 2023 seems like nonsense to me, so I don't feel any pressure for these new prospects to fill a gap for a contender. All I want is the right coaching to help them be strong, smart and competitive as ballplayers. Martin seems like he could be a reliable .300 hitter, which is great.

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2 minutes ago, LastOnePicked said:

This is going to be a patience game. Let players like Martin develop, and give them time to work through their challenges as they break into MLB. The idea of competing for the division in 2022 or 2023 seems like nonsense to me, so I don't feel any pressure for these new prospects to fill a gap for a contender. All I want is the right coaching to help them be strong, smart and competitive as ballplayers. Martin seems like he could be a reliable .300 hitter, which is great.

I think the timeline depends on their willingness to go with prospects as opposed to filling spots with free agents.  I agree they are not contending next year but they could put a team on the field next year that would project to be close.

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Prospects are ONLY prospects. All-star starters that are 27 yrs old shouldn't be traded for 2 prospects. I don't care what their prospect ranking is. We'll turn around next year and bring in more guys like Happ, Shoemaker, Kenny Rogers, and Rich Hill and have their monetary value shoved down our Twins fan throats. We can't be happy with this. Berrios is the closest thing we've had to a stud pitcher in 10 years. He left here with a winning record? Dude is a stud.

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I like the Arraez comparison and I think it's a good one, although Martin's bat will be a lot better in the long run. I'm not really worried about him, Toronto is pretty aggressive with their prospects. Most teams probably wouldn't have dropped him in AA to start his career so it made sense that he struggled a bit. He's going to be really good.

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He has played what, three months of AA ball after sitting out a year following college and some are downgrading his potential.  And he is playing while dealing with an injured hand.  Bah Humbug!

I am amazed that the Twins were able to pry him away from Toronto.  Why you ask?  Looked at Toronto's draft last year.  They paid this kid $7.0M to sign, which was $820,000 over the allotted slot of $6.18M.  That was the second highest bonus paid last year, which ties to some who maintain he was one of the top two prospects in the draft.  The result was that the Jays ended up around 5% over their allotted pool, ie, they paid a hefty tax.  With everything Toronto paid to get this kid, I doubt their opinion slipped, especially considering he is playing with that injury. 

So why were the Twins able to get this kid and a top notch young pitcher?  Easy, they traded one hell of a great young pitcher who will help the Jays battle for the playoffs this year and next.  Berrios just may be an ACE, but most of us here have nitpicked his talent apart for the past whatever years.  Why, probably in part because the bloody Twins haven't been able to satisfy our yearning for some playoff success.  

None of us knows what the future holds for this young man.  But odds are pretty darn good that he is gonna be heck of a good one.

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They're buying low if you agree with FanGraphs downgrade on Martin, I guess? 

the Twins FO doesn't seem too concerned about his power production this year (he may have adjusted his swing to compensate for a hand injury) and they're right that it's a lot easier to add power to a guy with high bat skills and great control of the strike zone than it is to add average and contact to a player with big power. Small tweaks in elevating his swing, pulling the ball more, using his legs better, adding muscle, etc are all thing that could add additional pop to his bat.

I heard on Gleeman & the Geek the comp of "Shannon Stewart with more walks" right now. That would be a pretty nice player, as Shannon Stewart was a borderline all-star a couple of times and a quality starter for the better part of a decade. add in more walks and you have a player who is a multiple all-star and a building block for your team.

I really didn't expect the twins to get a player of this quality and a high-upside pitcher for Berrios, which was part of my resistance to trading him (the other part is I would have preferred to sign him long-term...but I'm increasingly of the belief that absent a substantial overpay the Twins had no shot of extending him. I think the same is true for Toronto: I believe Berrios is serious about wanting to be a free agent and see what happens.)

Martin is really good as a player. They'll find a position for him defensively; this isn't a case of needing to stash him somewhere where he won't do any damage. 

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The Blue Jays got exactly what they wanted in Jose Berrios and thus the Twins were able to receive two highly rated prospects in return. Austin Martin may develop, quickly, into a real fine MLB player and we hope he does as soon as next season. However, Martin was not going to play ahead of Bichette or Springer and thus his value was higher for others than to Toronto.  I don't think Toronto was down on Martin as a prospect.

The Twins could use Austin Martin in LF if Buxton returns to full health. Byron has had a real tough time with injuries but most of them are unrelated and he could, absolutely, bounce back to be a 140+ games per year star. Power in CF allows for a line drive hitter in LF, and Martin could be that player. The Twins still need two pitchers though.

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17 minutes ago, jmlease1 said:

They're buying low if you agree with FanGraphs downgrade on Martin, I guess? 

the Twins FO doesn't seem too concerned about his power production this year (he may have adjusted his swing to compensate for a hand injury) and they're right that it's a lot easier to add power to a guy with high bat skills and great control of the strike zone than it is to add average and contact to a player with big power. Small tweaks in elevating his swing, pulling the ball more, using his legs better, adding muscle, etc are all thing that could add additional pop to his bat.

I heard on Gleeman & the Geek the comp of "Shannon Stewart with more walks" right now. That would be a pretty nice player, as Shannon Stewart was a borderline all-star a couple of times and a quality starter for the better part of a decade. add in more walks and you have a player who is a multiple all-star and a building block for your team.

I really didn't expect the twins to get a player of this quality and a high-upside pitcher for Berrios, which was part of my resistance to trading him (the other part is I would have preferred to sign him long-term...but I'm increasingly of the belief that absent a substantial overpay the Twins had no shot of extending him. I think the same is true for Toronto: I believe Berrios is serious about wanting to be a free agent and see what happens.)

Martin is really good as a player. They'll find a position for him defensively; this isn't a case of needing to stash him somewhere where he won't do any damage. 

Loved this comment jm, loved it.

My only suggestion would be to add the following to the end of the first sentence of the second paragraph.......(see Miguel Sano).

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1 hour ago, Lefty said:

Prospects are ONLY prospects. All-star starters that are 27 yrs old shouldn't be traded for 2 prospects. I don't care what their prospect ranking is. We'll turn around next year and bring in more guys like Happ, Shoemaker, Kenny Rogers, and Rich Hill and have their monetary value shoved down our Twins fan throats. We can't be happy with this. Berrios is the closest thing we've had to a stud pitcher in 10 years. He left here with a winning record? Dude is a stud.

You are aware that every single player, prior to playing a major league game, is considered a prospect, right? These are 2 very good, young players. Believe it or not, Berrios was once a prospect!

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2 hours ago, Lefty said:

Prospects are ONLY prospects. All-star starters that are 27 yrs old shouldn't be traded for 2 prospects. I don't care what their prospect ranking is. We'll turn around next year and bring in more guys like Happ, Shoemaker, Kenny Rogers, and Rich Hill and have their monetary value shoved down our Twins fan throats. We can't be happy with this. Berrios is the closest thing we've had to a stud pitcher in 10 years. He left here with a winning record? Dude is a stud.

Berrios was not interested in signing with the Twins likely at or below market value. That was clear. Would you be okay with 8 years and $280MM for Berrios? An absolute massive and guaranteed overpay so he had no choice but to sign the worst contract in Minnesota Twins history? A contract which would utterly cripple the franchise for the next decade?

If so, I'm not sure you're much of a Twins fan. If not, then the Twins had 2 options:

1. Let Berrios walk at the end of 2022 with (maybe) a comp round pick for 2023 or

2. Trade him.

The Twins chose number 2 and now have 2 top 50 level prospects in the high minors with super high ceilings and expected low floors.

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While Martin and Woods-Richardson are excellent gets, the only way I accept this trade as a success at this point is if the FO KNEW that there was no way they would be re-signing Berrios - which has been suggested.  Otherwise trading your 1B/2A member of your rotation is not wise or a plan for success.

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13 minutes ago, puckstopper1 said:

While Martin and Woods-Richardson are excellent gets, the only way I accept this trade as a success at this point is if the FO KNEW that there was no way they would be re-signing Berrios - which has been suggested.  Otherwise trading your 1B/2A member of your rotation is not wise or a plan for success.

Look, if Toronto is able to extend Berrios in the offseason at market rate (or less), then we'll know that either the FO botched this or was never serious about keeping Berrios. But I suspect that Toronto will be no more likely to extend Berrios than the Twins, absent a substantial overpay. Now...what constitutes an "overpay" for Berrios? YMMV. I think the market rate on him as a free agent is AAV of $25-28M with a term length of at least 5 years. (Wheeler is the floor; while Wheeler had been better than Berrios at the time of his FA, Berrios is younger and healthier, and the best ability is availability. but he's not going to get Cole money unless he wins the Cy next year) How many people want to give Jose Berrios 5 years and $150M? That might have gotten it done, but tell me it doesn't make your palms sweat.

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Just saw a note from Ken Rosenthal on The Athletic that Twins view Martin as a future CF despite not yet having the arm strength for an OF spot.  While I, too, am very high on this guy's bat, I am very puzzled by this statement.  If Martin is slotted in for CF, where does that leave Buxton?  Is this an indication they don't plan on signing Bux?  Also, the team's top 2 prospects, Lewis and Martin, are apparently not viewed as big league SSs.  Nor are Polanco, Miranda or Arraez.  So where are all these good bats going to play?  And is there any minor leaguer who the Twin's brass views as their future SS?   To some this might seem like a good problem to have; to others, maybe it's just too confusing.

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51 minutes ago, mike8791 said:

Just saw a note from Ken Rosenthal on The Athletic that Twins view Martin as a future CF despite not yet having the arm strength for an OF spot.  While I, too, am very high on this guy's bat, I am very puzzled by this statement.  If Martin is slotted in for CF, where does that leave Buxton?  Is this an indication they don't plan on signing Bux?  Also, the team's top 2 prospects, Lewis and Martin, are apparently not viewed as big league SSs.  Nor are Polanco, Miranda or Arraez.  So where are all these good bats going to play?  And is there any minor leaguer who the Twin's brass views as their future SS?   To some this might seem like a good problem to have; to others, maybe it's just too confusing.

The FO manipulated his service time, they leaked information about Buxton not signing, and then they tried to trade him. So, yeah, they might not expect him to be here much longer. I'd rather lose this FO than Buxton but others may disagree.

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1 hour ago, gunnarthor said:

The FO manipulated his service time, they leaked information about Buxton not signing, and then they tried to trade him. So, yeah, they might not expect him to be here much longer. I'd rather lose this FO than Buxton but others may disagree.

I have heard a half-dozen interviews with various baseball execs and reporters as well as Rocco this morning who say Buxton definitely wants to be a Twins.  He has said as much himself.  You just might be right but it's pure assumption and we all know what happens when we assume.  

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2 hours ago, bean5302 said:

If not, then the Twins had 2 options:

1. Let Berrios walk at the end of 2022 with (maybe) a comp round pick for 2023 or

2. Trade him.

The Twins chose number 2 and now have 2 top 50 level prospects in the high minors with super high ceilings and expected low floors.

Without my opinion on what they should have done, there was one other option, try to compete next year (and use that time to try and sign him) and if that didn't work out and trade him at the deadline.

 

As for buying low, I don't think they bought low, I think next year he will drop in the national prospect ranking based on the possibly of not be a SS and being 23, not a huge drop (maybe 10 - 20 spots) unless things really turn around this year,

 

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2 hours ago, mike8791 said:

Just saw a note from Ken Rosenthal on The Athletic that Twins view Martin as a future CF despite not yet having the arm strength for an OF spot.  While I, too, am very high on this guy's bat, I am very puzzled by this statement.  If Martin is slotted in for CF, where does that leave Buxton?  Is this an indication they don't plan on signing Bux?  Also, the team's top 2 prospects, Lewis and Martin, are apparently not viewed as big league SSs.  Nor are Polanco, Miranda or Arraez.  So where are all these good bats going to play?  And is there any minor leaguer who the Twin's brass views as their future SS?   To some this might seem like a good problem to have; to others, maybe it's just too confusing.

I see trades on the horizon for more pitching to speed up the rebuild.  Also there are lots of SS on the open market this offseason.  I wonder if we can get one of them signed?  We should have plenty of money going into next year.  Especially if we trade Buxton in the offseason which I hope we don't do.

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Here is the failure. The Twins let go of a top 25 starting pitcher who is under 30 and has remained very healthy over his career when they have very little quality starting pitching. People will argue that he wouldn't re-sign with Minnesota but I challenge that. If the Twins would have offered him 30 mil per year, I think he definitely would have signed that deal. Before anyone balks at that number, that is the cost of young talented pitching and it isn't getting lower. It would have made him a top 10 paid SP but that isn't a huge overpay when considering his age and consistency. The Twins could have also chose to offer him a significant contract extension instead of letting it go to arbitration and trying to get a deal. Instead of doing either, the Twins tried to play it frugally (cheap) like they consistently do which leads to talented players heading out the door and the team once again searching for quality starting pitching.

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Before the pandemic hit last year I had the chance to drive down the road to Hawkins field and watch the commodores. This guy looked like a man among boys which judging by his stats to start the season he truly was! This guy is gonna be an OBP machine. On a team of elite players in the country he was by far the best player. No questions. He’s gonna be fine and I can’t wait for him to get the call because he’s a gamer for sure! He’s calm in the box. You can tell he’s got a plan. He was watching the pitcher intently in the on deck circle. He worked the count and when he got his pitch which he knew was coming he attacked the pitchAnd barreled it! He looked like a right handed Mauer in the box. In his prime that is. That kind of hitter! In college!

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24 minutes ago, chopper0080 said:

Here is the failure. The Twins let go of a top 25 starting pitcher who is under 30 and has remained very healthy over his career when they have very little quality starting pitching. People will argue that he wouldn't re-sign with Minnesota but I challenge that. If the Twins would have offered him 30 mil per year, I think he definitely would have signed that deal. Before anyone balks at that number, that is the cost of young talented pitching and it isn't getting lower. It would have made him a top 10 paid SP but that isn't a huge overpay when considering his age and consistency. The Twins could have also chose to offer him a significant contract extension instead of letting it go to arbitration and trying to get a deal. Instead of doing either, the Twins tried to play it frugally (cheap) like they consistently do which leads to talented players heading out the door and the team once again searching for quality starting pitching.

How many mlb teams would pay Berrios $30 million per?  I know it only takes one, but it surely is less than 5(maybe only the Dodgers).  There are so many horrible contracts in baseball.  Look at the top 30 paid pitchers in baseball.  How many of those contracts are are just God awful, ridiculous?  I counted at least half, if not a bit more.

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12 hours ago, jmlease1 said:

I heard on Gleeman & the Geek the comp of "Shannon Stewart with more walks" right now. That would be a pretty nice player, as Shannon Stewart was a borderline all-star a couple of times and a quality starter for the better part of a decade. add in more walks and you have a player who is a multiple all-star and a building block for your team.

I'd take that. Stewart had a career OBP of .360, so add a few walks...

I would also hope that he could become a better defender than Stewart, which isn't a particularly high bar to get over.

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If these two prospects are as good as the hype train, and FO says it will be great.  As of now they are just prospects.  Yes everyone started as a prospect but very few prospects make it.  My opinion on Berrios is I wish we would have kept him but I partially understand the thinking on it to get something before he leaves.  But it's the same old crap the Twins throw at us.  We only have prospects and hope.  If the Twins would have paid him years ago instead of going on the cheap, maybe we wouldn't have even been in this spot.  Nothing changes in Twins philosophy of just selling hope.

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15 hours ago, chopper0080 said:

Here is the failure. The Twins let go of a top 25 starting pitcher who is under 30 and has remained very healthy over his career when they have very little quality starting pitching. People will argue that he wouldn't re-sign with Minnesota but I challenge that. If the Twins would have offered him 30 mil per year, I think he definitely would have signed that deal. Before anyone balks at that number, that is the cost of young talented pitching and it isn't getting lower. It would have made him a top 10 paid SP but that isn't a huge overpay when considering his age and consistency. The Twins could have also chose to offer him a significant contract extension instead of letting it go to arbitration and trying to get a deal. Instead of doing either, the Twins tried to play it frugally (cheap) like they consistently do which leads to talented players heading out the door and the team once again searching for quality starting pitching.

The Top 10 Highest Paid SPs Right Now:

1. Gerrit Cole, $36M

2. Stephen Strasburg, $35M

3. Zack Greinke, $34.4M

4. Trevor Bauer, $34M

5. Justin Verlander, $33M

6. David Price, $31M (yikes!!)

7. Clayton Kershaw, $31M

8. Max Scherzer, $30M

9. Chris Sale, $29M

10. Jacob deGrom, $27.5M

Those are the only guys who come close to making $30M/year. None of them are “young,” and Berrios isn’t as good as any of them. (Okay, maybe Price but as I implied, that contract is awful) You also talk about him as being “consistent” when he’s completely the opposite. 

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