BOSTON -- The Red Sox, making their preparations for next month's Rule 5 Draft, added three of their best prospects to the 40-man roster on Wednesday.

The list includes hitting machine Garin Cecchini, solid outfielder Bryce Brentz and hard-throwing righty Anthony Ranaudo, each of whom is among the club's Top 20 Prospects, according to MLB.com.

The addition to the 40-man roster is typically a sign of prospects who have gone through the farm system either according to plan, or, in some cases, above expectations.

Cecchini, a third baseman, has created a lot of buzz with his pure hitting skills. He started the 2013 season at Class A Salem, hitting .353 in 63 games. And Cecchini adjusted well to the move to Double-A Portland, batting .296 with a .420 on-base percentage in 66 games.

The left-handed hitter, who has already developed a strong reputation for his charitable endeavors, was selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Cecchini had the honor of playing in the Futures Game at New York's Citi Field last July.

Brentz is one of the best all-around players in Boston's farm system, but he is coming off a season that had its share of adversity. He missed a chance to participate in Major League Spring Training last year when he inadvertently shot himself while cleaning his handgun. Later, Brentz dealt with a torn meniscus that limited his season to 82 games at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he hit .264 with 17 homers and 56 RBIs.

At this point, Brentz has a hitting approach that is a little more aggressive than what the Red Sox prefer. His on-base percentage last season was .312. Some scouts project Brentz as a player who could hit 20-25 homers when he reaches the Majors. He also has a strong arm in right field and above-average range.

Of course, the key to the future success of any organization is the ability to develop young pitching. And the Red Sox feel they might have something special in Ranaudo, who rebounded after being bothered by injuries and ineffectiveness in 2012. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound righty from New Jersey spent most of the '13 season at Portland, going 8-4 with a 2.95 ERA in 19 starts. The move to Triple-A didn't seem to faze Ranaudo, as he went 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA in six games, five of which were starts.

Players signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.

The most noteworthy player not protected by the Sox on Wednesday was infielder Kolbrin Vitek, the club's first-round pick (20th overall) in the 2010 Draft. To this point, Vitek simply hasn't panned out as a hitter, producing a .258 average with eight home runs in 304 games. He looked overmatched at Portland last season, hitting .204 with a .514 OPS in 219 at-bats.

With the moves, the Red Sox have 39 players on their roster.

Baseball's Winter Meetings take place from Dec. 9-12 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Rule 5 Draft is held on the final day.

Boston's 40-man roster

Pitchers (20): Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow, Drake Britton, Clay Buchholz, Rubby De La Rosa, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, Jake Peavy, Ranaudo, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Brayan Villarreal, Allen Webster, Alex Wilson, Brandon Workman, Steven Wright.

Catchers (4): Dan Butler, Ryan Lavarnway, David Ross, Christian Vazquez.

Infielders (6): Xander Bogaerts, Alex Castellanos, Cecchini, Brock Holt, Will Middlebrooks, Dustin Pedroia.

Outfielders (8): Jackie Bradley Jr., Brentz, Mike Carp, Jonny Gomes, Alex Hassan, Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino.

Designated hitter (1): David Ortiz.