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Grading the 2019 Twins: Ryne Harper

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Who passes — and who fails?

Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox
Jim Morris, eat your heart out.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This is another in the “Grading the 2019 Twins” series. Regulation introductory description: the author discusses a player’s 2019 season and hands out a letter grade, then everyone else votes in the poll at the end and chats about it in the comments. Yes, these are still going on, and we have a good number of players still to cover, so fasten your seat belts and go to sleep. Previous entries to the series can be found in the links below.

For the third consecutive season, the Minnesota Twins saw a spring non-roster invitee break camp with the major league club.

Following in the steps of catcher/pitcher Chris Gimenez and outfielder Ryan LaMagic Ryan LaMarre, Ryne Harper was an afterthought in the Twins’ spring bullpen. Aside from being buried behind young returning relievers, such as Tyler Duffey and Trevor Hildenberger, and the Twins’ sole free agent bullpen addition, Blake Parker, Harper had been assigned jersey number 70, one in that range of numbers that is usually assigned to players expected to start the year in the minors, and one which has not been worn by a Twin in the regular season.

Then Harper started throwing curveballs, and people took notice. (Except would-be batters, who didn’t notice until it was too late.) Before long, it became not just wistful speculation but a legitimate possibility that Harper would make his debut in the major leagues at age 30.

When spring ended, Harper was indeed assigned to the Twins’ opening roster, switching his jersey number to 19 (which mildly disappointed me) and becoming the fourth player named Ryne to play in the major leagues.

Like other pitchers covered already in this season, Harper had an excellent start to his season only to trail off at year’s end. Harper’s first seven appearances were scoreless, and through May, he’d appeared in 21 games and posted a superb 1.61 ERA, striking out 20 and walking just five — two of those walks in his first appearance as an MLB relief pitcher.

But from the start of June on, batters began reading Harper’s pitches and putting bat on ball, and his ERA steadily rose. By the time the Twins demoted him to Rochester on August 24, Harper’s ERA had jumped more than two full points (to 3.65) and he’d allowed at least four extra base hits in each of the three summer months after giving up just two in April and one in May.

Harper was recalled during September call ups and finished the year in Minnesota, ending his 61-appearance rookie season with a 3.81 ERA, 50 strikeouts to 10 walks, a 1.178 WHIP, and a minus 1.30 WPA — after ending May with a WPA in the positives.

Whether Harper has a role on the 2020 Twins is a subject for another article — he’s still on the 40-man roster, so he has a chance — but his 2019 season, like Kyle Gibson’s and Martin Perez’s, consisted of an incredible start that tailed off badly as the summer went on. As the roster stands now, he’ll have a chance to improve that in 2020; while his first year was a great story and started excellently, his summer tumble drops his grade.

Overall Grade: C

Poll

What grade would you give Ryne Harper’s 2019 season?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    A
    (6 votes)
  • 27%
    B
    (52 votes)
  • 50%
    C
    (93 votes)
  • 16%
    D
    (31 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (4 votes)
186 votes total Vote Now