No. 38: Brian Harper (13.4 WAR)
While Scott Erickson was mowing opposing batters down, his signal caller was producing too. Brian Harper caught for the Twins from 1988 to 1993 after being picked up from the scrap heap. He had never played more than 61 games in a season before coming to the Twins, having played for five teams before signing with Minnesota.
Being released by Oakland didn’t phase Harper, as we went on to have a productive stint as the starting catcher for a championship club. Behind the plate, he finished in the top five in catching base thieves three different seasons, throwing out 50 or more each time.
With the bat, Harper was stellar. He hit .306 during his time with the Twins, good for fifth in team history. His best season at the dish came when he hit .325 in 1989 to go along with eight home runs and 57 RBIs. He collected two or more wins above replacement each full season in Minnesota, which shows his value behind the plate.
One team’s trash is another team’s treasure.
The Twins found a diamond in the rough in Harper. Bill James, a notorious baseball mind, wrote about Harper in his book New Historical Baseball Abstract, saying:
"“Harper should have had a much better career than he did. He lost a lot of his career to other people’s stupidity.” “Harper tried to convert to the outfield or first base. He wasn’t fast enough to play the outfield; nobody was sure he would hit enough to play first. He bounced over to St. Louis, Detroit, Oakland, Minnesota. He was (28) by the time he got a chance to play.”"
Fortunately, for the Twins, they saw his potential and capitalized on it. He ended up being one of their most productive players ever. While he may not have the recognition of other Twins catchers, he is only one of two starting catchers in team history to win a championship.