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The D-backs' all-time best international signings

@SteveGilbertMLB
May 6, 2020

From the very start of the franchise in the 1990s, the D-backs have been aggressive in their search for talent across the globe. The pursuits have paid off in big ways via key contributors on the club's World Series-winning team in 2001 as well as each of its National League

From the very start of the franchise in the 1990s, the D-backs have been aggressive in their search for talent across the globe.

The pursuits have paid off in big ways via key contributors on the club's World Series-winning team in 2001 as well as each of its National League West title squads.

MLB Pipeline recently released its annual Top 30 International Prospects list for players eligible to sign in the 2020-21 signing period. These young players are the game’s international stars of tomorrow and are following in the footsteps of thousands of international players who laid the groundwork before them. One day, these young men could be remembered among the best players in team history.

These are the D-backs’ top five international prospects of all time:

1. Miguel Montero
Montero is not just the best catcher in D-backs history but also one of the best all-time players by virtue of his 23.3 Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement, which files behind only Paul Goldschmidt and Luis Gonzalez among position players.

Simply known to teammates and fans alike as “Miggy,” Montero was signed by the D-backs out of Venezuela as a non-drafted free agent in 2001 for a $13,000 bonus. While coming up through the Arizona system, Montero made it a priority to learn English so that he could better communicate with his teammates -- and particularly the pitchers. He officially became a U.S. citizen in '17.

Montero made his big league debut with the D-backs on Sept. 6, 2006 -- the night Marlins right-hander Aníbal Sánchez tossed a no-hitter. Montero joked that things could only get better from there.

They certainly did, as he wound up making a pair of All-Star Game appearances and becoming the club’s main catcher until being dealt to the Cubs after the 2014 season. While in Chicago, Montero helped the Cubs end their 108-year championship drought as part of the '16 World Series roster.

2. Byung-Hyun Kim
With many D-backs fans remembering Kim mainly for a couple of rough games in the 2001 World Series, often overlooked is what an overall tremendous pitcher he was for the club.

The D-backs signed Kim out of South Korea on Feb. 19, 1999, and he rocketed through their system to make his Major League debut that May 29 against the Mets at Shea Stadium at just 20 years of age.

With a submarine delivery that caused his fastball to rise along with a frisbee slider, Kim dominated NL hitters and proved to be remarkably durable, throwing 98 innings over 78 relief appearances in 2001. Kim posted an ERA+ of 159 that year, but he was even better as the full-time closer in '02, compiling a 2.04 ERA, 36 saves and an ERA+ of 223.

3. Carlos González
The D-backs signed González at 16 out of Venezuela on Aug. 3, 2002, and he spent five seasons in the Arizona system, rising to Triple-A in '07, where he was regarded as the team’s best position player prospect.

However, after the D-backs surprisingly made it all the way to the NL Championship Series in 2007 and signed outfielder Eric Byrnes to a three-year, $30 million extension, there appeared to be no room in the outfield given that Chris Young and Justin Upton were also starters.

Looking to help his team get over the hump, then-general manager Josh Byrnes dealt González and a bevy of prospects to the A’s for ace right-hander Dan Haren.

"We presented a rare circumstance for them where they [the A's] could get so many good players," Byrnes said at the time. "They understood our desire not to really strip apart our 2008 team, so our interests were fairly aligned. It just took a while to make the trade work because of the magnitude of it, very good prospects going one way and one of the best pitchers in the game coming our way."

González, on a Minor League deal with the Mariners before Spring Training was halted, has spent 12 seasons in the big leagues, most of which have come with the Rockies, where he has punished the D-backs with 29 homers and a .916 OPS in 137 career games.

4. Ender Inciarte
Signed by the D-backs out of Venezuela at 17 years old on May 25, 2008, Inciarte made his big league debut May 2, 2014.

But the D-backs almost lost Inciarte before that, when the Phillies nabbed him in the Rule 5 Draft in 2012. He failed to make the team out of Spring Training and was returned to the D-backs.

Inciarte had a breakout year for the D-backs in 2015 when he slashed .303/.338/.408 and played outstanding defense while seeing time at all three outfield spots.

The D-backs dealt Inciarte after the season in the ill-fated Shelby Miller trade, and he has gone on to earn an All-Star nod and three Gold Glove Awards with the Braves.

5. Gerardo Parra
Another reason the D-backs felt they could give up González in the Haren deal was the presence of Parra in their farm system.

Parra was signed by the D-backs out of Venezuela on Aug. 30, 2004, at 17 years of age, and he made his big league debut on May 13, 2009.

Parra was an outstanding defender for the D-backs, winning Gold Glove Awards in 2011 and '13, and he possessed a cannon for an arm, almost daring runners to try to take an extra base on him. In the clubhouse, his infectious personality and boundless energy was appreciated by teammates.

Heading into the 2011 season the plan was for Parra to be the team’s fourth outfielder, but he quickly worked his way into the starting lineup and had an OPS+ of 113 for the NL West champs.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.