Top MLB Players From Panama

The Central American country of Panama doesn't have the pedigree of some other Caribbean countries as far as their Major League Baseball talent, but with one Hall of Famer (and another one certain to come in the next decade), it's a baseball country with a proud heritage that dates back to when the Panama Canal zone was an American territory. Because of that U.S. influence, baseball was introduced and became popular.

A look at the best players in MLB history to come out of Panama (stats as of June 18, 2013, for active players):

of 10

Mariano Rivera

Jim McIsaac/Contributor/Getty Image Sport/Getty Images

Position: Relief pitcher

Teams: New York Yankees (1995-2013)

Stats: 76-59 record, 2.21 ERA, 1,079 games, 632 saves

The greatest closer in baseball history was born in Panama City in 1969 and was raised in Puerto Caimito. Soccer was his first love, but ankle injuries derailed that plan, and much to the delight of Yankees fans. He developed one of the nastiest cut fastballs in major league history and became baseball's all-time saves leader in 2011. A 12-time All-Star as of 2013, he was the MVP of the 1999 World Series and has a record 42 postseason saves to go with his five World Series rings.

of 10

Rod Carew

Position: First baseman/second baseman

Teams: Minnesota Twins (1967-1978), California Angels (1979-1985)

Stats: 19 seasons, .328 batting average, 3,053 hits, 1,015 RBI, 353 SB, .822 OPS

Born in 1945 on a train in the Panama Canal Zone town of Gatun, he moved to New York as a teenager. The sweet-swinging Carew was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1967 and made 18 consecutive All-Star Game appearances. He won the American League batting title seven times and was the 1977 MVP when he hit a career-best .388 and drove in 100 runs. His number is retired by both the Twins and Angels organizations and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1991.

of 10

Carlos Lee

Position: Outfielder/first baseman

Teams: Chicago White Sox (1999-2004), Milwaukee Brewers (2005-06), Texas Rangers (2006), Houston Astros (2007-12), Miami Marlins (2012)

Stats: 14 seasons, .285 batting average, 2,273 hits, 358 HR, 1,363 RBI, .821 OPS

Lee, from Aguadulce, Panama, played in just three postseason games in his long career and rarely played for a winner, but his 14-year career was sneaky good. In an era of big offense, he provided plenty of it. He belted the first of his 358 career homers in his first big-league at-bat. He was a three-time All-Star and hit 17 career grand slams, the same as Ted Williams.

of 10

Manny Sanguillen

Position: Catcher

Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates (1967, 1969-76, 1978-80), Oakland Athletics (1977)

Stats: 13 seasons, .296 batting average, 1,500 hits, 585 RBI, .724 OPS

From Colon, Sanguillen was one of the best catchers in the National League for years in the early 1970s on some very good Pittsburgh Pirates teams. A three-time All-Star, he was third in the NL in batting in 1970 and hit .379 with 11 hits in the 1971 World Series, winning the first of his two championship rings for the Pirates. He was a reserve catcher on the 1979 championship team.

of 10

Ben Oglivie

Position: Outfielder

Teams: Boston Red Sox (1971-73), Detroit Tigers (1974-77), Milwaukee Brewers (1978-86)

Stats: 16 seasons, .273 batting average, 1,615 hits, 235 HR, 901 RBI, .786 OPS

Tough call for the No. 4 spot between Sanguillen and Oglivie, who is also from Colon. Oglivie broke in at age 22 with the Red Sox, but his career sputtered along until he landed in Milwaukee in a trade after the 1977 season. In Milwaukee, he became one of the best power hitters in the game, sharing the AL lead in home runs in 1980 with 41, when he made the first of his three AL All-Star teams. He hit 34 homers with the Harvey's Wallbangers pennant-winning team in Milwaukee in 1982.

of 10

Roberto Kelly

Position: Outfielder

Teams: New York Yankees (1987-92, 2000), Cincinnati Reds (1993-94), Atlanta Braves (1994), Montreal Expos (1995), Los Angeles Dodgers (1995), Minnesota Twins (1996-97), Seattle Mariners (1997), Texas Rangers (1998-99)

Stats: 14 seasons, .290 batting average, 1,390 hits, 124 HR, 235 SB, .767 OPS

Born in Panama City in 1964, he's likely best known for his tenure with the Yankees at its center fielder, he was a two-time All-Star and played on playoff-qualifying teams later in his career with the Dodgers, Mariners, and Rangers. As of 2013, he's the first-base coach for the San Francisco Giants.

of 10

Hector Lopez

Position: Outfielder, third baseman

Teams: Kansas City Athletics (1955-59), New York Yankees (1959-66)

Stats: 12 seasons, .269 batting average, 136 HR, 591 RBI, .745 OPS

Born in Colon in 1929, Lopez was the second native of Panama to make the major leagues (Humberto Robinson broke in 22 days earlier). Lopez was a valuable utility player on Yankees championship teams in 1961 and 1962, becoming the first Panamanian to win a World Series. He was the first black manager at the Triple-A level with the Buffalo Bisons in 1969.

of 10

Carlos Ruiz

Position: Catcher

Teams: Philadelphia Phillies (2006-2016), Los Angeles Dodgers (2016)

Stats: First eight seasons, .274 batting average, 52 HR, 301 RBI, .776 OPS

Ruiz, born in David, Chiriqui, Panama, he didn't break in as a big-leaguer until age 27 but became a valuable player for a championship team in Philadelphia in 2008. Known as a solid defensive catcher, he hit his stride offensively in 2010, when he hit .302 and made his first All-Star team in 2012 when he hit 16 home runs.

of 10

Rennie Stennett

Position: Second baseman, shortstop, outfielder

Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates (1971-79), San Francisco Giants (1980-81)

Stats: 11 seasons, .274 batting average, 41 HR, 432 RBI, .665 OPS

Also from Colon, Stennett was one of three Panamanians who made an impact in Pittsburgh in the 1970s. He went 7 for 7 in a game against the Cubs in 1975 and hit .336 in 1977, missing out on a chance at a batting title because of a broken leg. He won a championship with the Pirates in 1979, when he shared second base duties with Phil Garner.

of 10

Omar Moreno

Position: Outfielder

Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates (1975-82), Houston Astros (1983), New York Yankees (1983-85), Kansas City Royals (1985), Atlanta Braves (1986)

Stats: 12 seasons, .252 batting average, 386 RBI, 487 SB, .649 OPS

Born in Puerto Armuelles in 1952, he was a teammate of Stennett and Sanguillen and was best known as the leadoff hitter for the "We Are Family" Pirates, who won a championship in 1979. He stole 96 bases in 1980, a record for the Pirates, and he ranks 40th all-time in stolen bases as of 2013.

Next five: Bruce Chen (74-72, 4.57 ERA), Juan Berenguer (67-62, 3.90 ERA), Ramiro Mendoza (59-40, 4.30 ERA), Olmedo Saenz (.263, 73 HR, 275 RBI); Einar Diaz (.254, 21 HR, 202 RBI)