Mariners News: M’s Acquire RHP Ryne Harper from Braves

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Ryne Harper could be an unexpected contributor in the Seattle Mariners bullpen next season.

The Seattle Mariners acquired Ryne Harper from the Atlanta Braves on Friday afternoon. Harper is the PTBNL to complete the Jose Ramirez trade from last week. Despite never appearing in a game above AA, the 26-year-0ld right-hander could be a diamond in the rough for the M’s.

Originally selected by the Braves in the 37th round of the 2011 draft, Harper began his professional career with the Danville Braves of the Appalachian League. Harper excelled in rookie ball, going 2-0 and posting a 0.83 ERA through 21.2 innings. He finished the 2011 season with the Gulf Coast Braves, where he went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA  and 2 saves in 8.2 innings.

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Harper began the 2012 season with the Braves A affiliate, the Rome Braves. Harper struggled in the South Atlantic League, going 0-2 and registering a 4.32 ERA across 15 appearances. Atlanta promoted him midseason to the Lynchburg Hillcats of the Carolina League. Harper dominated, going 2-1 with a 1.83 ERA through 44.1 innings.

The Austin Peay State University alum spent the entire 2013 season with the Mississippi Braves of the Southern League. Harper was filthy for the Braves, going 6-3 with a 1.79 ERA and 11 saves across 41 appearances. He struck out 54 and walked 18 in 55.1 innings of work. Harper held the opposition to just 1.175 hits/walks per inning.

Harper repeated the 2014 season in AA with the Mississippi Braves. He was equally as effective the second time around, as he went 9-5 with a 2.58 ERA through 48 appearances. Harper fanned 93 and walked 24 across 76.2 innings. The Braves sent Harper to the prestigious Arizona Fall League following the season. He held his own against the best young talent in baseball, going 2-0 with a 3.97 ERA in 11.1 innings.

After dominating the Southern League for two seasons, the Braves inexplicably decided Harper needed yet another year in AA. Just like the previous two seasons, he was electric for Mississippi. Harper went 0-1 with a 1.87 ERA in 23 appearances. Harper struck out 40 and walked 11 across 33.2 innings. He held the opposition to a measly 0.980 walks/hits per inning.

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Don’t let Ryne Harper’s advanced age fool you, he does a lot of things well and he could be a great under the radar pickup by Jerry Dipoto. Harper has great size (6’3/215lbs), and he has nasty stuff. Through 5 seasons in the minor leagues, he has averaged 10.7 strikeouts per 9 innings and has walked just 2.7. Harper’s 4.01 strikeout to walk ratio indicates he will be a very effective reliever one day in the big leagues.

It makes no sense why a rebuilding franchise like the Atlanta Braves would leave a pitcher with Harper’s numbers in AA for three seasons. He dazzled in the Southern League, going 15-9 with a 2.17 ERA and 12 saves in 112 career appearances. Harper has struck out 187 while issuing just 53 free passes in 165.2 innings.

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The Clarksville, TN product could find himself pitching at Safeco Field at some point in 2016. The Mariners current bullpen is underwhelming to say the least, and Harper should get a chance to compete for a spot next spring. I expect Harper to begin the season with the Tacoma Rainiers, but keep an eye out for him in the Emerald City as the year progresses.

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