Most of the game's greats come highly pedigreed. They're either drafted in the early stages of the MLB draft, or signed for big money as international amateurs or professionals. There are, arguably more so than in the other sports, plenty of outliers, late draft picks or late-blooming international players who grow into major contributors. Then there are the outliers even among the outliers, such as Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta.
Peralta's professional journey began as one of those lower-end international signees a full decade ago, when he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals -- as a pitcher. He topped out in the rookie-level Appalachian League, toiling for two seasons with the club's Johnson City affiliate at ages 18-19. He did strike out just more than a batter per inning over that span, but was otherwise ineffective, posting ERAs in the fives. He then required shoulder surgery, and was eventually released.
Most pro careers would have ended right there, but not this guy's. After rehabbing his shoulder, Peralta embarked on a career as a position player, taking the longest road imaginable, via the independent leagues. He started at the absolute bottom rung, rolling out a .392/.429/.661 line in 2011 in the North American League, which doesn't even exist anymore, at age 23. Such a performance at that age in such a low-end league guarantees a player little more than a similar job for the next season, maybe in a better league, and possibly invitations from a few MLB clubs to winter free-agent workouts.
Peralta was back at it in 2012, batting .332/.392/.462 for Wichita in the American Association, a slightly more established independent circuit. Still nothing. By this time, however, he had caught the eye of D-backs' independent league scout Chris Carminucci. My many duties as an MLB scout and executive during my time in the game included independent league scouting oversight for both the Brewers and Mariners, and I was familiar with Carminucci from his indie-league managing days. He was about to catch his big fish.