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Hi all … a blog post from me is a rarity, but a blog post about getting together for drinks should make total sense.

As mentioned prior to the season, we here at RAB HQ are heading to the lovely land of taxation without representation next weekend, Washington D.C.  The Yankees will be in town to the play the Nationals, and the plan right now is to enjoy some baseball and hang out with some of you great people after the game.  If you like beer, and I know I do, you’ll love The Big Hunt.  It’s a great bar right in Dupont Circle, which is centrally located in the greater D.C. area and about 15 minutes from the ballpark.

Interested?  Let us know.  We’ll do it up real nice and try to meet up after the game on Saturday, June 16, 2012.

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Just a heads up, I created a new 2012 Draft Pool Tracker page that we’ll use to keep tabs of the Yankees’ draft spending in the coming weeks. It’s a work in progress, but all the draft spending rules and penalties are there, ditto the team’s draft picks in the top ten rounds. I’ll add post-tenth round picks as they impact the draft pool. The page is available via the Resources tab (under the street sign in the banner) at all times.

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We added a new feature to the site today, the Bullpen Workload page. It’s available at all times via the Resources tab, right under the “AVE BLUES” in the street sign. The idea is simple, we’re going to keep track of the Yankees’ relievers recent workloads – in terms of pitches thrown — to help give us an idea of who’s available on a given night, who’s not available, who’s been overworked, who’s been buried, stuff like that. I added some select Triple-A pitchers who have a reasonable chance of being called up the big leagues to the table as well. Hope you find it useful.

Full Disclosure: The idea came from Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, a fantastic Dodgers blog that gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation. It’s run by a fellow handsome guy named Mike, so check it out.


The Mason Williams Watch

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Last week I asked you to vote for this season’s Prospect Watch, and nearly 3,300 responses later, we have our answer. Low-A Charleston center fielder Mason Williams received 31% of the vote and will have his season tracked and highlighted in our sidebar. Last year’s Prospect Watch prospect — Manny Banuelos — finished second with 27%. Gary Sanchez was a distant third at 17%.

Williams, 20, hit .349/.395/.468 with 28 steals in 298 plate appearances for Short Season Staten Island in 2011. I ranked him as the club’s second best prospect before the start of Spring Training while Keith Law (#34), Baseball America (#85), and Kevin Goldstein (#99) all consider him one of the game’s 100 best prospects. Williams is a contact-oriented speed guy, so I wouldn’t expect a ton of homers this summer. Double-digits would be a pleasant surprise. The minor league season starts tonight, and I think we’re all hoping Mason raises some hell right away.

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Just a heads up, today is the last day to vote for our 2012 Prospect Watch. We’ve gotten over 2,700 responses so far and Mason Williams is starting to distance himself from Manny Banuelos, though fewer than 100 votes separate the two. Make sure you get your vote in before I close the poll this evening.

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Just a reminder, the 2012 Prospect Watch poll is still up and active in case you missed it yesterday. So far we’ve gotten over 2,400 responses, and Mason Williams leads Manny Banuelos by fewer than 50 votes. The poll will be open through the weekend, and it looks like this one will come down to the wire. Please make sure you vote if you haven’t done so yet.

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Poll: The 2012 Prospect Watch

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The incumbent. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

If you’ve been reading RAB long enough, you’re well aware of our annual Prospect Watch. The idea is simple. We pick a prospect, and throughout the regular season we track his progress in the sidebar, specifically his most recent (i.e. last game) and overall season performance. Past Prospect Watch subjects include Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Andrew Brackman, Jesus Montero, and last year, Manny Banuelos. Needless to say, some years have been better than others.

Rather than just pick a prospect and run with it this year, we’re going to try to something new. For the first time ever, you folks will be able to pick our 2012 Prospect Watch candidate by voting in the poll at the end of the post. As you can tell from our previous watches, we’re looking for star power here. Solid and consistent is nice and all, but the Prospect Watch is all about holy crap performances. The occasional 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer out of Montero made all the 0-for-4 with two strikeouts worth it.

I’ve taken the liberty of picking five candidates for this year’s prospect watch, all of whom are among the team’s seven best prospects. They’re all slated to spend the season in a full season league as well, which is key. With all due respect to Ravel Santana, no one feels like waiting until the NY-Penn League season kicks off in late-June for the Prospect Watch to go up. Here are those five candidates, listed alphabetically with a short little blurb…

Manny Banuelos, LHP
We’ve never had a two-time Prospect Watcher, but I’m not opposed to idea at all. That’s just the way things shook out in the past. Armed with a new cutter, Banuelos is scheduled to start the year with Triple-A Scranton and is poised to join Joba as the only player to go from RAB Prospect Watch to the big leagues in the same season.

Dante Bichette Jr., 3B
The Yankees first round pick just last season, Bichette took home Rookie Level Gulf Coast League MVP honors last year and will start his first full pro season with the Low-A Charleston River Dogs. He’s an all-around hitter with patience and power, capable of long hit streaks and long homers.

Jose Campos, RHP
Acquired from the Mariners as part of the Montero-Michael Pineda swap, Campos destroyed the Short Season Northwest League last year and will join Bichette in Charleston. His big fastball and surprisingly excellent command should lead to a ton of performances DIPS disciplines will love. That means lots of strikeouts and few walks.

Gary Sanchez, C
With Montero gone, Sanchez is now the best hitter in the organization. Last year with Charleston he hit the same number of homers (17) as Montero did at the same level in 2007, just in 226 fewer plate appearances. Sanchez could spend the first few weeks of the season back with the River Dogs, but a trip up to High-A Tampa seems inevitable at some point this summer.

Mason Williams, CF
Williams isn’t just another cog in what figures to be a dynamite Low-A lineup in 2012, he’s going to set the table and bat leadoff. His huge showing with Staten Island last season vaulted him up prospect lists, and now he’s the Yankees best all-around position player prospect.

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The minor league seasons begins next Thursday, the day before the Yankees open their 2012 regular season in Tampa. The poll will remain open through the weekend. Thanks in advance.

Who should be featured in the 2012 Prospect Watch?
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Update: RAB Goes To Washington

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As part of the NL park portion of their interleague schedule, the Yankees are taking a swing through our nation’s capitol for a three game set against the Nationals from June 15th-17th. We’re planning to have an RAB-related weekend down in D.C.; going to the games, hanging out before and afterwards, etc. Ben put out some feelers regarding your interest last month, and it’s safe to say the place will be crawling with Yankees fans that weekend.

We’re still working out most of the specifics, but we do have some updates to pass along…

  1. Nationals email list members can buy single-game tickets starting tomorrow. If you have access to them, buy tickets to the series that way. Don’t wait for us.
  2. Getting group tickets through the Nats for that series is a bit of a pain, so we’re going to look for group tickets on the secondary market. With any luck we’ll get a good deal through our partnership with TiqIQ. If you are interested in getting tickets through us this way, please be aware that you’re going to have to pay secondary market prices, which may be more than face value.
  3. As Ben mentioned last month, you’re responsible for transportation. If you have access to or find reasonably priced lodging, go for it. We may be able to get a room block somewhere but the price probably won’t be pretty.
  4. We’re planning to do meetups with readers before and after each game, but the locations are TBD. They’ll almost certainly be within walking distance of the ballpark, unless you happen to know of some awesome places further away.

Nationals Park is pretty nice, I was able to catch a game there last summer (here’s the box score … Sean Burroughs homer!). My advanced scouting report on the concessions is weak though, I didn’t do much exploring. The odds are in favor of us seeing a Stephen Strasburg start since it’s a three-game set, and with any luck Bryce Harper will be up by then as well. We can watch him launch some bombs and start counting down the days until he’s in pinstripes together.

If you have any questions or concerns about the trip, please let us know in the comments and we’ll try to answer them all either tonight or tomorrow morning. The trip will be a blast, and we hope to see many of you down in Washington.

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Players can't come to our party. Sorry CC. (REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

Spring Training is an exciting time of year. Every team is in contention, everyone’s in the best shape of their life, and optimism is abound. When the Yankees held their first official workout this past Monday, a minor little detail flew under the radar because of all the excitement: it was RAB’s fifth birthday.

Five years and five days ago, Ben, Joe, and I launched this site never imagining it would become as popular as it is today. In one of my very first comments, I confidently proclaimed that “there’s a better chance the Yanks will draft Jesus Christ than have Brackman fall all the way to 30.” In the five years since that comment, Brackman did fall to the Yankees and the 30th overall pick, had Tommy John surgery, spent three unproductive years in the minors, and been released. The Yanks did add a Jesus to their system as well, just for good measure.

We can’t thank you folks enough for the support you’ve shown us through the years. Without you guys, RAB probably would have closed up shop a long time ago. Instead, we’ve managed to expand a bit, adding some great writers, hooking on with the YES Network, and infiltrating more popular sites like FanGraphs and MLB Trade Rumors. We even scored some time on Newsday a few years back. Our plan for baseball blogosphere domination is finally starting to come to fruition.

In all seriousness, thank you for helping make RAB what it is today. You guys keep us on our toes and force us to be better. The five years have gone by in the blink of an eye, but we’ve welcomed in a New Stadium, said goodbye to The Boss, and celebrated a World Championship during that time. Here’s to another amazing five years, and many more after that.

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Bumping up for those who missed it on Saturday: Got a new toy for you folks to play with: the Amateur Signing Bonuses page. It’s a list of signing bonuses the Yankees have paid out to amateur players (draftees and international free agents) in the recent and not-so-recent past. It is in no way complete and it never ever will be because some signing bonus information just isn’t available publicly. The page is under the resources tab in the nav bar above, just under “AVE BLUES” in the street sign. Enjoy.

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