The Pirates added six players to their 40-man roster Friday, ensuring that they would be protected from the Dec. 8 Rule 5 draft.
First baseman Matt Hague, middle infielder Jordy Mercer, center fielder Starling Marte and pitchers Rudy Owens, Justin Wilson and Duke Welker were added to the roster, which is now full. The Pirates also designated outfielder Xavier Paul and catcher Eric Fryer for assignment to make room.
Hague hit .309 with 12 home runs and 75 RBIs with Class AAA Indianapolis this season. He led the International League in hits and was a midseason and postseason International League All-Star. Mercer hit .255 with 19 homers and 69 RBIs in a season split between Indianapolis and Class AA Altoona.
Marte had a phenomenal season, leading the Eastern League with a .332 average while in Altoona. Baseball America recently ranked him the No. 4 prospect in the Pirates minor league system.
Owens went 9-7 with a 5.05 ERA for Indianapolis, and Wilson went 10-8 with a 4.13 ERA for the Indians.
General manager Neal Huntington said the organization liked Welker's variety of pitches, mid-90s fastball and the ability to induce both ground-ball outs and swings and misses.
"He has the ability to strike hitters out," Huntington said. "His command and control improved this year."
The Pirates will have to make room on the 40-man roster if they want to add a player in the Rule 5 Draft.
The Pirates also claimed right-hander Jeremy Hefner from the San Diego Padres organization and catcher Brian Jeroloman from the Cubs off waivers and sent catcher Matt Pagnozzi outright to Class AAA Indianapolis.
NOTE -- Former Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit signed a one-year contract with the Minnesota Twins reportedly worth $3 million. Because Doumit was a Type B free agent, the Pirates will receive a compensatory draft pick between the first and second rounds of the 2012 draft.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on twitter @BrinkPG.