Per capita, there's perhaps no greater cradle of talent in Major League Baseball than the Dominican Republic. The country's history with baseball dates to the late 1800s, and the first Dominican player made it to the majors in 1956 in Ozzie Virgil.
Out of more than 400 players to make the big leagues, here are the 10 best players in MLB history to come out of the Dominican Republic (stats as of Aug. 9, 2013 for active players):
Position: Starting pitcher
Stats: 18 years, 219-110, 2.93 ERA, 2827.1 IP, 2221 H, 3154 Ks, 1.054 WHIP
A three-time Cy Young Award winner, Martinez was one of the most dominant pitchers of all-time, with the highest winning percentage of any 200-game winner in the modern era. A native of Manoguayabo, Martinez threw hard and had an arsenal of pitches that was unrivaled in his era. He made eight All-Star teams -- he was the All-Star Game MVP in 1999 -- and led the AL in ERA four times and in strikeouts three times. He also won a World Series with the 2004 Red Sox and is an almost certain Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible in 2015.
Position: Right fielder
Stats: 16 years, .318, 449 HR, 1,496 RBI, 181 SB, .931 OPS
Another player on a Cooperstown track later this decade, Guerrero was a five-tool wonder early in his career and still a feared power hitter later. A native of Don Gergorio, Guerrero was the 2004 AL MVP and was a nine-time All-Star and eight-time Silver Slugger winner. With 2,590 career hits, no player from the Dominican Republic had more. He batted better than .300 in every season from 1997 to 2008.
Position: Starting pitcher
Stats: 16 years, 243-142, 2.89 ERA, 3507 IP, 3153 H, 2303 Ks, 1.101 WHIP
One of the most intimidating pitchers of all-time, he was the first Dominican player voted into the Hall of Fame. A native of Laguna Verde, Marichal won more games (161) than any other player in the 1960s. The longtime Giants star was the winning pitcher in one of the greatest games ever pitched, when he and fellow Hall of Famer Warren Spahn were locked in a scoreless duel for 15 innings in 1963. Marichal was a 10-time All-Star.
Position: Second baseman
Teams: New York Yankees (2005-)
Stats: (active) 9 years, .307, 199 HR, 788 RBI, .856 OPS
Too high? Well, this is a projection in many ways. He could creep higher by the time he's done. The best active player from the Dominican, Cano is already a five-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glove winner. A native of San Pedro de Macoris, he helped lead the Yankees to a World Series championship in 2009 and the Dominican Republic to the World Baseball Classic title in 2013.
Stats: 19 years, .312, 555 HR, 1,831 RBI, .996 OPS
Ramirez was born in Santo Domingo and grew up in New York, then became one of the greatest hitters of his generation, going to 12 All-Star Games and winning a batting title, a home run title, an RBI title and a World Series title in 2004, when he was a teammate with Martinez in Boston. He hit 21 grand slams and 29 postseason home runs. However, he also reportedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 and 2009 and was suspended twice by Major League Baseball, which moves him down on this list.
6. David Ortiz
Position: Designated hitter/first baseman
Stats: (active) 17 years, .287, 423 HR, 1,400 RBI, .932 OPS
"Big Papi" is perhaps the greatest designated hitter of all-time and a key member of the Boston Red Sox for more than a decade. A nine-time All-Star, he has the knack for the big hit and is approaching 2,000 hits for his career as of August 2013. A native of Santo Domingo, he played a key role on two World Series winners and hit 54 home runs in 2006. However, he was also on the 2003 list of players who tested positive for PEDs, a charge he denied, saying an over-the-counter supplement must have triggered a positive test. He's never been suspended.
7. Sammy Sosa
Stats: 18 years, .273, 609 HR, 1,667 RBI, 234 SB, .878 OPS
Like Ramirez, Sosa would be much higher on this list based on his accomplishments alone. His 609 home runs ranks eighth all-time and his RBI total is 27th in history. In an incredible stretch from 1998 to 2001, he hit 243 home runs, including 66 in 1998. But he also was reportedly one of several big-league stars to test positive for PEDs in 2003, although he said he was clean when he testified before Congress in 2005. He is not likely to be voted into the Hall of Fame because of the allegations.
Position: Third baseman
Stats: (active) 16 years, .282, 371 HR, 1,286 RBI, .812 OPS
Sneaking up on some career lists, Beltre is a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner at third base. A native of Santo Domingo, he led the National League in home runs in 2004 with 48.
9. Julio Franco
Teams: Philadelphia Phillies (1982), Cleveland Indians (1983-88, 1996-97), Texas Rangers (1989-93), Chicago White Sox (1994), Milwaukee Brewers (1997), Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1999), Atlanta Braves (2001-05, 2007), New York Mets (2006-07)
Stats: 23 years, .298, 173 HR, 1,194 RBI, 281 SB, .782 OPS
An ageless wonder, he played for eight teams -- not including a stint in Japan -- and hit line drives everywhere. He played in the majors at age 49 in 2007 and had 2,586 hits in the major leagues. A three-time All-Star, the native of Hato Mayor led the AL in hitting in 1991 (.341).
10. Pedro Guerrero
Position: Oufielder/first baseman
Stats: 15 years, .300, 215 HR, 898 RBI, .850 OPS
From the same town as Cano, Sosa and several other big-league stars-- San Pedro de Macoris -- Guerrero was one of the top hitters of the 1980s. A career .300 hitter, he shared World Series MVP honors in 1981 and was a five-time All-Star.
Next five: Moises Alou (OF, 17 years, .303, 332 HR, 1,287 RBI, .885 OPS, born in Atlanta, raised in D.R.); Cesar Cedeno (OF, 17 years, .285, 199 HR, 976 RBI, 550 SB, .790 OPS); Tony Fernandez (SS, 17 years, .288, 94 HR, 844 RBI, 246 SB, .746 OPS); Alfonso Soriano (active, OF-2B, .272, 391 HR, 1,093 RBI, 281 SB, .823 OPS); SS Miguel Tejada (active, .285, 307 HR, 1,301 RBI, .791 OPS)
Top 12 active: Cano, Ortiz, Beltre, Soriano, Tejada, Bartolo Colon (RHP, 16 years, 185-126, 3.97 ERA, 2543.2 IP, 2552 H, 1913 Ks, 1.317 WHIP); Hanley Ramirez (SS, 9 years, .301, 169 HR, 563 RBI, 244 SB, .875 OPS); Jose Reyes (SS, 11 years, .292, 111 3B, 100 HR, 506 RBI, 421 SB, .784 OPS); Placido Polanco (3B-2B, 16 years, .297, 104 HR, 720 RBI, 80 SB, .741 OPS); Rafael Furcal (SS, 13 years, .281, 113 HR, 585 RBI, 314 SB, .749 OPS); Rafael Soriano (RP, 12 years, 17-26, 2.79 ERA, 160 saves, 548.1 IP, 410 H, 562 Ks, 1.060 WHIP); IF Edwin Encarnacion (9 years, .265, 189 HR, 591 RBI, .827 OPS)
Honorable mention: Rico Carty (OF, 15 years, .299, 204 HR, 890 RBI, .833 OPS); Jose Rijo (RHP, 14 years, 116-91, 3.24 ERA, 1880 IP, 1710 H, 1606 Ks, 1.262 WHIP); OF-1B Felipe Alou (17 years, .286, 206 HR, 852 RBI, .761 OPS); RHP Joaquin Andujar (13 years, 127-118, 3.58 ERA, 2135 IP, 2016 H, 1032 Ks, 1.276 WHIP); RHP Ramon Martinez (14 years, 135-88, 3.67 ERA, 1895.2 IP, 1691 H, 1427 Ks, 1.311 WHIP); Jose Rijo (RHP, 14 years, 116-91, 3.24 ERA, 1880 IP, 1710 H, 1606 Ks, 1.262 WHIP); Manny Mota (OF, 20 years, .304, 31 HR, 438 RBI, .744 OPS); George Bell (OF, 12 years, .278, 265 HR, 1002 RBI, .785 OPS); Mario Soto (RHP, 12 years, 100-92, 3.47 ERA, 1730.1 IP, 1395 H, 1449 Ks, 1.186 WHIP)