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Red Sox add top prospect Will Middlebrooks, OF Che-Hsuan Lin and LHP Drak Britton to 40-man roster

11.18.11 at 6:39 pm ET
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Will Middlebrooks was added to the Red Sox 40-man roster on Friday. (DVM Sports/Courtesy Portland Sea Dogs)

The Red Sox added top prospect Will Middlebrooks as well as outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin and left-handed pitcher Drake Britton to their 40-man roster for the purposes of protecting them from the Rule 5 draft next month.

Third baseman Middlebrooks, who turned 23 in September, projects as an above average big league everyday third baseman in the coming years. He is considered a well-rounded prospect with significant power from the right side of the plate as well as strong defense at the hot corner. In 116 minor league games, mostly spent at Double-A Portland (96 games) and Triple-A Pawtucket (16 games), he hit .285 with a .328 OBP, .506 slugging mark and .834 OPS along with 23 homers and 94 RBI.

He did struggle after his season-ending promotion to Triple-A (.161/.200/.268/.468), and Middlebrooks is expected to spend most if not all of 2012 in Triple-A. Even so, he projects as potentially being an everyday third baseman as soon as 2013.

He was signed for $925,000 after being selected in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. He was playing in the Arizona Fall League this month before suffering a sprained left thumb that resulted in a cast that effectively ended his stint in the prospect-laden AFL.

Lin, who also recently turned 23, also split 2011 between Portland and Pawtucket, hitting .245/.340/.305/.644 with two homers and 28 steals in 119 games, of which 85 came in Triple-A. He is viewed as perhaps the best defensive outfielder in the Red Sox system. That, combined with his ability to get on place, makes him a likely future big league roll player, but unless he can hit for more power, he will likely be a reserve. Lin signed out of Taiwan for $390,000 in 2007.

The proximity of Middlebrooks and Lin to the majors made them obvious additions to the 40-man roster. However, Britton was something of a bubble candidate. A hard-throwing left-hander with a swing-and-miss curveball, he endured a terrible season in 2011. The 22-year-old went 1-13 with a 6.91 ERA with 8.2 walks and a gaudy 5.1 walks per nine innings, spending the entire season in High-A Salem.

Still, the 2007 23rd round pick (who signed for $700,000) has stuff is among the best in the team’s farm system, thus putting him in the profile of a pitcher on whom a team might take a flyer in the Rule 5 draft next month. Britton is just two seasons removed from a dominant season in Greenville, where he went 2-3 with a 2.97 ERA, 78 strikeouts and 23 walks in 75 2/3 innings.

The Rule 5 draft pool includes players who are not on the 40-man roster and a) have played four or more pro seasons if they signed at age 18 or younger; or b) have played three or more pro seasons if they signed at age 19 or younger. Players selected in the Rule 5 draft must remain on a major league roster all season or else be offered back to their original clubs.

Given how far most Rule 5 candidates are from the majors, few taken in the draft end up leaving their original organizations. That said, the developmental disruption of changing organizations and, sometimes, being pushed into unfamiliar roles is a source of considerable concern for teams, thus explaining why a player such as Britton might end up being protected even at a time when he is not major league ready.

Perhaps the most notable player whom the Sox did not protect was Cesar Cabral, given that the 22-year-old left-hander was taken by the Rays in the Rule 5 draft last year. He did not stick with Tampa Bay coming out of spring training, however, and went on to have a solid year in High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, with a 2.95 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 22 walks in a combined 55 innings.

With those moves, the Sox now have 38 players on their 40-man roster.

BOSTON RED SOX 40-MAN ROSTER (38)

PITCHERS (19): Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers, Scott Atchison, Daniel Bard, Josh Beckett, Michael Bowden, Drake Britton, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Rich Hill, Bobby Jenks, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, Stolmy Pimentel, Junichi Tazawa, Kyle Weiland.

CATCHERS (3): Luis Exposito, Ryan Lavarnway, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

INFIELDERS (10): Lars Anderson, Mike Aviles, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Iglesias, Jed Lowrie, Will Middlebrooks, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro, Oscar Tejeda, Kevin Youkilis.

OUTFIELDERS (6): Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Kalish, Che-Hsuan Lin, Darnell McDonald, Josh Reddick.

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