Trying to Pick First Half Breakouts Is Not Very Easy for 2019

By Todd Johnson

The guy I want to pick as my breakout prospect for 2019 probably won’t play until June. Second baseman Reivaj Garcia is the bat I’m going to focus on later this year. But at 17-years-old, the young switch hitter’s more than likely not going to be starting at South Bend to begin the year. He should be at Eugene come June 15. As a result, trying to pick breakout prospects for the first half could be rough this year.

There are a couple basic rules I follow for a first half breakout. One is there has to be a marked increase in performance from the year before. And while that player can be at any level, it’s rare for a breakout to appear at AAA, but they do happen at AA once in a while (Willson Contreras). Therefore, Myrtle Beach and South Bend are the likely spots to find breakouts in the first half.

Most Cub fans already have eyes on Cole Roederer and Brennen Davis, the Cubs two second round picks from the 2018 draft. Roederer clearly broke out last summer at Mesa with a wRC+ of 129 in 36 games in Arizona. But Davis was injured most of the year after he signed. He only played 18 games but what an 18 games. A wRC+ of 138 predicts a bright future. But like Garcia, Davis likely will not begin his first full season until Eugene plays in mid-June.

Considering that I spend most of my summer covering the Eugene Emeralds on a daily basis, I have a pretty good grasp on most of the players that will end up on the opening day roster at South Bend. That also makes it hard to pick someone I saw play 60 games last year as a breakout. Add in the fact that I’ve written about several of those players, some multiple times, it’s a little hard for prospects to sneak up on me in the first half.

When it comes to hitters, Andy Weber is going to do very well at South Bend. He’s got a patient eye at the plate and doesn’t seem to get too rattled in any situation. There is some power there, I just don’t know how much. However, I’ve written about Weber plenty of times. He’s not an unknown.

As for pitchers, I think everybody knows I’d pick Riley Thompson, the Cubs 11th round pick out a Louisville, who was pretty darn good at Eugene last summer.  But to me, Thompson has already broken out a bit. But then again, he hasn’t been fully unleashed on the mound for every start.

But if we’re talking a true breakout, by my own definition, the guy I want to see bustout is Jonathan Sierra. The formerly lanky RF is now a muscular RF waiting for everything to click. He’s shown a patient approach but the power everyone foresees hasn’t taken over his game.

Yovanny Cruz is definitely an arm that should be at South Bend. At 19, he looks to have all the poise of a veteran on the mound who can mix and match three pitches. He spent most of 2018 in Mesa but he did make one impressive start in Eugene. I hope that he is good enough to get to South Bend to start the year.

Another possibility is a player Arizona Phil of “The Cub Reporter” recently praised. Catcher Alexander Guerra is becoming known his tool in instructs. Phil stated Guerra has “plus HR power and is a solid receiver…” Guerra played in the Arizona Rookie League in 2018. He hit .267 with an OBP of .355 and 3 HRs in 46 games. He will be 22 shortly after the season begins.

When it comes to pitching, I hope to see lefty Didier Vargas get a crack at South Bend. He was up and down in 2018 at Mesa but he came up big in the playoffs for Cubs 1. Jeremiah Estrada and Danis Correa both missed most of last year and could breakout this year. However, the odds of both getting shots at South Bend early in the year are very slim.

One of the most exciting things about covering the minors is watching a player catch fire and breakout. Sometimes, you can see the player coming. Other years, they can take you by surprise. I am hoping for the former this year…but you never know. The extra rookie league team from Mesa is going to create much more competition for spots at South Bend this spring and we could see some players become breakouts as a result.


The 5 Series: Jeremiah Estrada Has a Lot of Questions to Answer

By Todd Johnson

Image result for The 5 Series Cubs central
In the summer of 2017, the Cubs selected pitcher Jeremiah Estrada in the sixth round of the 2017 MLB draft. The young right hander was coming off a disappointing senior season in high school and looked bound and determined to attend UCLA. The Cubs were able to sign Estrada and quickly assigned him to Mesa in the Arizona Rookie League.

Lots of talent evaluators loved Estrada, who dazzled on the summer circuit in 2016, and he quickly was ranked at #19 on MLB Pipeline‘s top Cubs’ prospect list. After the 2017 season, Pipeline said the following about Estrada, who was slated to head to Eugene:

Last summer, Estrada displayed a 92-95 mph fastball, one of the best changeups in the prep ranks and a solid curveball. This spring, he operated more with an 88-92 mph heater and relied less on his changeup and curve and more on a harder but less effective slider. Switching to the slider seemed to have a negative effect on his other secondary pitches.

Estrada has an athletic, repeatable delivery that should yield at least average control. While he’s a little shorter than desired in a right-hander, he still has a lot of projection remaining in his 6-foot-1 frame. If he can recapture his two plus pitches and effective breaking ball, his seven-figure bonus could be a bargain.

When 2018 spring training begin, Estrada did not make it very far as he had elbow issues and missed all of 2018. Still, Estrada is well thought of both inside and outside the Cubs’ organization.

When 2019 begins, Estrada will have thrown a whopping total of 6.1 innings in his year and a half as a Cub. As a result, I have a few questions about Estrada heading into Spring Training.

1. Injury – Will he be pitching this year and how much? He threw his first bullpen session a few days ago. He looks to be on schedule for spring training at the end of February.

2. Stuff – I am wondering what the Cubs have tinkered with about Estrada since his injury and how that might affect his pitches and arsenal. Will we see a fastball in the low to mid 90s? Will he still throw a slider or did he junk that pitch for his elbow’s sake? .

3. Usage – I wonder how much the Cubs are going to let Estrada pitch? Are they going to treat him gingerly or will the Cubs trot him out there to go three innings a pop? I’m sure there are going to be limits to start 2019, but when will those limits end?

4. Placement – Considering that he’s coming off elbow issues, Estrada is not going to be in the cold of northern Indiana to begin the year. He should start in extended spring training and go from there. Based on his lack of pro experience, Eugene might make the most sense. Then again, most of his draft class will be at South Bend. Odds are the Cubs will just have to wait and see how he responds to his usage and, most importantly, the level of talent he is facing. He could, if all goes well, make it to the Midwest League when it warms up in May. That’s a best case scenario. Likely, he will be in Oregon come June.

5. Decisions, Decisions – Estrada projects as a major league starter. He could fit nicely in the backend of a rotation, but is that how it is going to be used in 2019? Because of his elbow, the Cubs could also have him do some long relief or they could just have him be another bullpen arm. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of role he is going to take on this year and how it affects his developmental process.

I don’t think the answers to any of these questions are going to be set in stone. The Cubs should wait and see how his elbow responds and to see just exactly what his arm is like.  The Cubs had outstanding success with rehabbing pitchers Justin Steele and Erick Leal in 2018. As a result, one could project that the Cubs should be able to make Jeremiah Estrada’s rehab this year a huge success as well.

Position Breakdown Series – RHSP Part 2: Arms Waiting to Break Out

By Todd Johnson

When I originally started writing this series, today’s post was supposed to be from South Bend on down. However, Tennessee and Iowa were so strong, that first article didn’t leave any room for Myrtle Beach. Unlike the last week’s list, which had a clear-cut pecking order, this list does not. I’m unsure of who is going to be where and that might be a good thing for the system. Spring training could be organized chaos as arms move between levels frequently. In the end, though, here are some names that I am going to keep an eye on as right-handed starting pitchers from class A on down.

Because of the log jam at Iowa in Tennessee, Erich Uelmen will more than likely begin 2019 at Myrtle Beach. Uelmen looks to be the odd man out after struggling somewhat after being promoted from South Bend. I still like his off-speed stuff especially his sinker that kept Midwest League hitters off balance.

Riley Thompson is another one of my guys. The big righty out of Louisville sits at 95 and if he develops any kind of secondaries this year, he’s going to do very, very well. He may be the most promising pitcher from last year‘s draft class. He’s not a finished prospect but he could really take off in 2019.

Derek Casey was drafted out of Virginia and got in some work last summer at Eugene. However, he didn’t even throw 10 innings. Still, his experience in the ACC and throwing on a downhill plane makes it hard for hitters to square him up. I have been saying since August that he could skip South Bend and start 2019 at Myrtle Beach.

Erling Moreno – This guy has a ton of talent but he just can’t stay healthy for an extended amount of time. Moreno has pro type stuff. He’s got a plus curve and can sit 93 to 95 with his fastball. The only thing stopping him is him. He should begin 2019 in the Carolina League.

Richard Gallardo -The Cubs top international signing from last summer has been drawing a lot of praise in recent prospect lists. Both Fangraphs and Baseball America have Gallardo debuting in Mesa and not the DSL in 2018. He is going to be one to watch in 2019. Now that Anderson Tavarez is the new Mesa pitching coach, I am a little excited about his prospects.

Yovanny Cruz – I came away extremely impressed with Cruz from just 1 start. After he spent most of the year in Mesa, he got a spot start in Eugene and just baffled guys with a curve, a changeup, and great command. At only 19. I want to see more of him, a lot more.

Paul Richan – He got a lot of work in early in the summer for Eugene and then met his innings limit. He does have a plus curve and a nice change and he commanded his fastball well The problem is I don’t know if his fastball is going to be enough once he gets to Myrtle Beach. His off speed stuff will be fine in South Bend, but after that I don’t know what the future holds for him. That fastball needs to get up around 93 consistently.

Peyton Remy is a guy who attacks the strike zone. He spent most of the summer in Mesa last year and the junior college product looked extremely polished sitting at 91-93. He was amazing for Eugene in long relief in the playoffs and he should be starting at South Bend to begin 2019.

Danis Correa – Two summers ago, he was the talk of the Dominican Summer League as he was pushing the upper 90s. An injury last spring sidelined him for most of 2018 but he was able to rebound and pitch two scoreless outings for Mesa. He will only be 19 and should be at Eugene to start 2019.

Jeremiah Estrada – 2018 was a blank season for the young California kid, but everyone is still anxious to see how his pro career is going to go. I expect to see the 2017 6th round pick to 2019 in Eugene as the Cubs will probably take it slow with him coming off Tommy John surgery.

Blake Whitney is probably the guy everyone is saying, “Who the hell is Blake Whitney?“ Well the 29th round pick out of South Carolina Upstate did very well as a starter last year in Mesa for the Cubs 2 team and should be in competition to start in South Bend. He had an ERA of 2.30 in 31.1 IP with 37 Ks. That bodes well..

Part of me wonders if I’m only halfway through this list. I don’t know how Jaron Madison, the Cubs director of player development, is going to get these guys innings this summer to continue their development. I didn’t even mention names like Javier Assad, Eury Ramos, Jesus Tejada, Jesus Camargo, Jose Albertos, and Kohl Franklin.

The Cubs have a lot of arms in play and some of these guys could start anywhere from Eugene up to Myrtle Beach. It will be interesting to see who is assigned where and for how long. These are good problems to have. I remember 7 winters ago, it was a system devoid of pitching. Now, it’s brimming with it.

What Will be the Top Pitching Storylines in 2019 for Cub Prospects?

By Todd Johnson

Unlike hitting, the Cubs starting pitching does not have depth issues. When it comes to 2019, there are going to be a lot of storylines to follow at every major affiliate when it comes to pitching. Some of those storylines may take place this off-season and some of them will take place throughout the course of the 2019 regular season.

Moving Up or Staying Put

First, and foremost, Jaron Madison is going to have a tough time deciding which five starting pitchers are going to be at AAA Iowa to begin the year. Adbert Alzolay, Trevor Clifton, Duncan Robinson, and maybe Alec Mills will begin the year in the rotation. But then Keegan Thompson, Thomas Hatch, Matt Swarmer, and Michael Rucker will be competing for a spot or two and it’s going to be a whale of a competition. It’ll be interesting to see how that type of log jam plays out as it trickles down the rest of the system. It will be a very competitive spring. 

If you succeed at AA, odds are your season was not a fluke. Odds are you a legit prospect. In 2018, Matt Swarmer and Keegan Thompson both did very well; first at Myrtle Beach and later at AA Tennessee. Michael Rucker flashed in spurts and Duncan Robinson got better every month and just plain dominated the second half of the year. Thomas Hatch pitched like a man possessed in August. It will be interesting to see who ends up where in 2019.

How Good Can Brailyn Marquez Get?
After having a breakout season in 2018, the 6’4″ lefty is still in a bit of quandry. After regularly sitting 95-97 most nights in Eugene last summer, he earned a late promotion to South Bend. Is he good enough to start out at Myrtle Beach? Can he go deeper and deeper into games? How efficient can he be with his wipe out slider? He will be just 20 next year. As a top 5 system prospect, there is no one quite like him in the minors for the Cubs.

Last year, a couple of pitchers skipped a level to begin the year. Alex Lange and Keegan Thompson both started out at Myrtle Beach after playing a little bit at Eugene the year before. They did just fine. The only arm I could see doing that in 2019 is Derek Casey, the Cubs ninth round pick out of Virginia. However, several guys from Mesa could skip Eugene to get to South Bend. I would love to see lefty Didier Vargas attacking the zone in South Bend as a 20-year-old lefty,

South Bend Breakouts
South Bend is going to have a lot of young arms that are going to be extremely talented and also will have some growing to do. This is where most of the breakout arms should debut next season. Riley Thompson, Yovanny Cruz, Didier Vargas, Faustino Carrera, and many more young talented pitchers will be competing for a spot to pitch every six days over 140 games. I am excited to see just exactly what they can do. They  all tend to have one plus pitch and they need to refine the rest of their arsenal.

Young Drafted Guys: Kohl Franklin, Niels Stone, and Chris Allen
All three of these guys should begin at Eugene next year as they are either a high school or junior college draft pick last year. All three had great months ilast August but I don’t think they’re quite ready for South Bend.

Injury Return: Alzolay, Danis Correa, and Jeremiah Estrada
All three of these pitchers will hopefully return to health and have good seasons next year. Alzolay will be at AAA and Chicago while the other two should be in Eugene or South Bend come June.

Question Marks: Blake Whitney, Jack Patterson, and Peyton Remy

The Cubs drafted a lot of arms the past three years and these three are beginning to stand out a little bit. All three did excellent last year in Mesa, but I wonder if they are going to start in 2019 or work in relief. Remy threw darts for Eugene in the playoffs and Paterson went five scoreless in game two of the championship series against Spokane.

Overall, the pitching in 2019 will be the most competitive aspect of the minors come spring. With so many good arms, the Cubs are looking for a few to breakthrough and they might end up using a few of them either in Chicago or as trade chips as they did last summer.

2019 Comebacks – Alzolay and Others Will Try to Overcome 2018 Injuries

By Todd Johnson

An injury is never an easy thing to deal with. For some players, they deal with little nagging injuries all year long and others have their seasons ended. There’s no easy fix and you never know how a prospect is going to respond as every case is different.

This year, Justin Steele pitched in a game 11 months after having Tommy John surgery. 2018 also saw Ryan Williams come back and begin to strengthen his shoulder for a return trip to Iowa in 2019. In addition, Will Remillard made it all the way to AAA after missing the better part of 2.5 years. You just never know.

In 2019, there will be several Cub prospects who will be attempting to come back from injury. Some are more severe than others and some injuries are going to either make or break that prospect’s career.

Adbert Alzolay tweeted out some pictures of himself putting on cleats as if he was ready to pitch again. He should be just fine and, if he remains healthy, he can compete for a spot on the 25 man roster in the spring. The Cubs will probably give him a long look as a fifth starter.

Gioskar Amaya has now missed two full seasons after suffering a shoulder injury. The former second baseman turned catcher now likely turned second baseman can only hope that his shoulder is strong enough for him to be able to participate and throw at a high-level in 2019. I’m still pulling for him to make it as I liked his bat when he was last an infielder  at Daytona before he moved to catching.

Carlos Sepulveda has also missed almost two straight years, although he did have a short rehab stint in Mesa during August of 2017. The former top 10 prospect with elite bat to ball skills quickly faded from consciousness the moment he was injured in the spring of 2017. If he can get it back together, it’s an elite bat the Cubs could probably start out at Myrtle Beach next year. He still fairly young at 21 considering that he’s missed two full seasons.

Made from a photo by Rebecca Snyder

Jhonny Bethencourt’s season ended due to a hand injury at South Bend in early June. While Bethencourt does have some defensive issues, his offense does not. The ball just seems to hop off his bat and I look forward to seeing if there’s any residual effects next year when he begins play. Along with Adbert, Bethencourt is the most likely to return to normal action.

I briefly messaged Chad Hockin about a month ago to see how his rehab from Tommy John Surgery was going. He said that he is slated to start throwing in October and that he should be more than ready to go when the season begins. He had his surgery done in LA and was extremely excited with the results. I really like Chad. He’s one of the great talkers in the Cub system. He should be able to recoup some of his velocity (mid 90s) that seemed to be missing his first couple years as a Cub. I thought he was making some steps towards improvement last August in South Bend (2017) and was throwing in the low to mid 90s at Myrtle Beach before the blow up in just his third game. I’m really pulling for this guy to come out the other side and be a quality bullpen piece next year at Myrtle Beach and Tennessee.

Two other recovering arms from lower in the system should be exciting to watch next year. Danis Correa was set to debut in short season ball after touching the upper 90s in 2017 but did not make it out of spring training before TJS. The same is true of 2017 draft pick Jeremiah Estrada who was scheduled to end up in Eugene. I hope both of the young 19-year-olds make it back in 2019.

While there are no sure things from coming back from an injury, the technology and techniques used today far outpace those from just 20 years ago. At times, it’s inconceivable, but some of these prospects will look back, hopefully, at their injury as just a blip in the road and something that made them stronger.

Why Cubs Central Is Not Making a New Prospect List Until the End of the Season

By Todd Johnson

Early Wednesday afternoon, MLB Pipeline released this bit of news.

“With David Bote graduating from the ‘ Top 30 Prospects list, 19-year-old RHP Jeremiah Estrada enters: “

Normally, when a prospect is certified as no longer being a prospect due to service time or at-bats, I redo my Top 21 List. Normally.

This year, every time I think about my prospect list, I tend to just stare at all the names in the spreadsheet. It is not that the names of the players are not good. The Cubs have several good prospects who can most certainly help the major league club in the near future. But that’s not the issue of why I have only redone the list once this season.

After spring training, I touched up the list a bit and then again after the draft. Those are excellent points in time to redo a list. Normally, I also touch it up during the summer after the International Free Agency signing period begins as well as after a trade.

I decided against doing the list at any and all occasions this summer. Here’s why.

1. As a teacher, I teach US History every day and one of the questions I always get asked every year is, “Why do Supreme Court Justices get to serve for life?” I tell them that the Court System is set up that way to take popular opinion about the Constitution out of the equation. A justice can’t be looking over their shoulder about a decision worrying about re-election or when their term ends. They cannot think about a decision based on political means to get elected or re-appointed. The justice has to base their ruling on how it fits the framework of the Constitution and not on a whim. I am sort of the same way. I would rather the Top 21 list reflect talent evaluation rather than performance. If I was to do the list every month or so, it wouldn’t mean as much as performance would have way more influence on a monthly list rather than on talent evaluation.

2. The Cubs’ minor league system is very deep. While the Cubs lack the elite talent they once had in 2015, I have almost 50 names on my list to ponder when it comes to picking just 21. However, there is not a lot of separation between them. Once I start getting out of the top 10, I could have 40 prospects in contention for the next ten spots. Arguments could be made for 20-30 guys for the #17 spot. It is a bit mind blowing, but it is true.

3. Change comes quickly in the minors in the second half. With all the draft picks now signed and playing, I want to see how they do over a larger sample size. This year, though, I cannot see several of them play as they are going at it in the Arizona Rookie League. I am hearing great things about Cole Roederer and Brennen Davis, but I have yet to set my own eyes on them. The shame is I probably won’t get to see them until they get to Eugene next summer or if they miraculously make it to South Bend beforehand. It is hard for me to evaluate someone very well if I haven’t seen them. I did get to see top pick Nico Hoerner for about a couple of weeks and in person. He’s very poised and polished. If not for an injury, he could have been my #1 prospect (and he still might be).

4. Doing well at the lower levels of the minors is nice for a prospect to hang their hat on, but it is not a precursor of future success nor is it a prerequisite. Some lines a friend of mine and I have been saying this summer go like this: “See me when they get to Tennessee,” and/or “Let me know when they are at Myrtle Beach.” Those levels are much more reliable in predicting a player’s ability to help the organization and in assessing their talent. I don’t want to have a list filled with 18-19 year old kids who have never seen the quality of pitchers and bats at a higher level.

5. The eye test is the best test. Just last month, I saw Brendon Little of South Bend in person just mow down guys in the Quad Cities with an ungodly breaking ball. Seeing his pitch live and the effect it has on a swing changes a lot of things. He’s making guys at low A look sick against that pitch. Just on the quality and depth he gets on one pitch, he is a top ten-ish prospect. Who cares about his 4+ ERA right now. That pitch is amazing! It could take a while for the rest of his arsenal to catch up to the quality of that one pitch. Stop scouting a stat line. Scout a player.

With all those things in mind, I am just going to wait a while to replace Bote in my list. I am just going to let the list ride until the end of the season (3+weeks). Then I will see where the prospects are at and that list will hold for quite a few months…I hope!

2017 Draft Class 1 Year Later – It Could Be McLeod’s Deepest Group in Time

By Todd Johnson

Even after just one year, it’s sometimes hard to get a good feel for a draft class until you’ve seen them play for at least a couple of years. Last year, the Cubs selected 41 players and signed 29 of them. A couple of young pitchers have yet to debut this year while 3 prospects are all the way up to high A Myrtle Beach. A large portion of the draftees are at South Bend (13) and the rest will likely play for Eugene this summer or fill in at South Bend within the next month.

While the Cubs did take a majority of pitchers last year in the draft (including two in the first round), it has been the hitters who are currently my focus on a daily basis this spring in Austin Filiere, Jared Young, and Nelson Velazquez. In addition, there are some pitchers trying to figure out whether they are going to start or relieve. Those decisions might be ongoing for a couple of years.

Next year’s grade will be more interesting and indicative of this class’ potential.

Photo by John Conover

The Big Pitching Guns

It’s a bit hit and miss so far.

Alex Lange, Keegan Thompson, and Cory Abbott have been up and down. Brendon Little is improving every start. Tyler Thomas was very good in April but seems to be inconsistent to begin May. And Brendan King is just getting to South Bend in a relief role and doing well. Rollie Lacy just made his first starts of the year for South Bend. It’ll be much easier to evaluate a year from now when these arms have 25 to 30 starts under their belt rather than five or six.

If the last few days are any indication, there’s a lot of promise. 2nd round selection Cory Abbott struck out 11 on Saturday night and 18 for the week while 3rd round pick Erich Uelmen went 12 scoreless on the week with 9 Ks.

Some Surprises

The Cubs did pick a few hitters who I really liked last year. Austin Filiere seems to have improved the most as he is hitting for average as well as drawing walks. I thought he would hit a lot more home runs but it hasn’t really heated up yet in the Midwest League. Jared Young is another impressive bat who really came on strong in August. He is one of my favorite hitters to watch in the organization because his approach is so good. The same is true of Austin Upshaw who did well at South Bend last summer. However, Upshaw is struggling in 2018 at Myrtle Beach. The approach is still there, but the results are not.

The Young Guns

Outfielder Nelson Velazquez tore it up last summer in Mesa. I thought he would begin 2018 in Eugene and I was really surprised to see him debut at South Bend the week of May 7. You can definitely see the tools and the skill set on display, but he seems to be struggling at the plate as I don’t think he has seen those types of curves or changeups before. Shortstop Luis Vazquez should also be a sight to see this summer in Eugene. He might be the best defensive shortstop in the system. If he can do anything with his bat, he should move pretty quickly with his skill set on defense. I’m looking forward to seeing Jeremiah Estrada pitch for Eugene this summer. He pitched a little bit last year in Mesa but not enough to get a good look at. This summer, seeing him on TV should be an eye-opener to see if the Cubs got a steal in the sixth round.

There are more than 10 other draft picks who make their 2018 debut later this year. That’s 1/3 of the draft class. Part of me says to give them a B and move on, but that is a lot of players who are still getting in the swing of things.

In trying to decide the grade, the one I really wanted to give was an incomplete. And that might be true for most drafts after their first year, honestly. There are many good things happening with this class and there are other picks who really haven’t even gotten going. I thought it would be unfair to the reader to get through this whole article and not even give a grade.

With that in mind, I’m going to throw out a B-. There’s no one who has gone out and consistently dominated. However, depending on how things go this year, the 2017 class could easily be an A at draft time a year from now if Little continues to improve, Lange and Thompson find some consistency, and Estrada flashes at Eugene to go along with the excellent hitting of Young, Filiere, Upshaw, and Velazquez, and the defense of Vazquez.

The Cubs took some chances in the 2017 draft and may hit on a few of them in due time. Just a year from now we’ll know a lot more. For right now, it’s a pretty promising class.