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Allen Webster, Alex Wilson headline six Red Sox additions to 40-man roster

The Red Sox [1] added six players — right-handed starters Allen Webster and Steven Wright, reliever Alex Wilson, catchers Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler and outfielder Alex Hassan — to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. A brief look at the group:

To clear the space for that half-dozen, the Sox removed five players from their 40-man roster, designating Ivan De Jesus Jr., Danny Valencia [3], David Carpenter, Sandy Rosario and Zach Stewart for assignment. All five were added in 2012 from outside the organization, four through trades, one via a waiver claim.

A quick look at that group:

Two of the Red Sox’ decisions qualified as mild surprises.

First, the inclusion of Hassan on the list of protected players was unexpected, though in retrospect, perhaps it shouldn’t have come as too great a surprise. In a world where players capable of posting reliably high on-base percentages are becoming increasingly rare commodities, Hassan’s ability to post a .377 OBP in Triple-A in what qualified as a down year suggested that the Sox might risk losing him if he was exposed to the Rule 5.

After all, there are currently just FIVE free agents who had at least 200 plate appearances in 2012 with an OBP of .350 or higher — Jonny Gomes, Jeff Keppinger [6], Nick Swisher [7], Josh Hamilton [8] and Bobby Abreu [9]. In his four minor league seasons, he has a career .391 OBP, and the Sox thought highly enough of him to make him one of their only drafted-and-developed non-roster invitees to big league spring training camp in 2012. Meanwhile, his .377 OBP in 2012 — again, a career-worst in a full season for the 24-year-old, who has moved up a level a year — can be matched among big league free agents only by Gomes, who also posted a .377 mark this year.

Secondly, the omission of Josh Fields came as something of a surprise given his outstanding performance in Double-A and Triple-A this year. But, with a 40-man roster that’s already overcrowded with relievers, the Sox opted to roll the dice in hopes that they will be able to keep Fields as non-roster minor league depth. Fields enjoyed a breakthrough with his command this year, dominating in a year-end spell in Pawtucket (19 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0.00 ERA in 13 2/3 innings) to put himself back on the prospect radar. Still, it is fair to wonder whether his breakthrough in his age 26 season (Fields turned 27 in August) is sustainable, particularly given his struggles in the Dominican Winter League, allowing eight runs in six innings while punching out eight and walking seven — something that might diminish the likelihood of a club investing a roster spot in him through the Rule 5 draft. At the least, the performance inconsistency between the regular season and winter league underscores that it might be difficult for a team to carry Fields on its 25-man big league roster for a full season.