The Padres' all-time single-season team

December 1st, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- If you're reading this, you probably already know who the best right fielder in Padres history is. You already know the franchise's top closer, too.

It wouldn't be difficult to piece together a team of all-time-great Padres. But what about a team of all-time-great Padres, demarcated by season?

What's the best right-field season in franchise history? Or the best season by a reliever? Those are trickier questions.

Without further ado, here's a starting lineup for the best Padres seasons at every position.

Catcher: , 1987
.300/.324/.467, 18 home runs, 3.4 WAR

Santiago's 1987 season is one of the best for a rookie catcher in baseball history. He batted .300 and posted a 34-game hitting streak, which still stands as the best mark in Padres history and the best ever for a rookie. Santiago also showcased his elite defensive skill set, throwing out 33 percent of would-be basestealers. Gene Tenace and Terry Kennedy put forth some quality seasons for the Padres. But none were as solid all around as Santiago's '87 campaign.

First base: , 2009
.277/.407/.551, 40 home runs, 6.9 WAR

González's 2010 campaign got more plaudits at the time because the Padres were a much better team in '10 than '09. But Gonzalez was far more valuable in '09, because of his elite combo of power and an ability to reach base. González led the National League with 119 walks (10 more than his 109 strikeouts), yet he still managed to also launch 40 homers. And oh yeah, he took home the second of his four Gold Glove Awards.

Second base: , 2004
.335/.391/.495, 16 home runs, 6.0 WAR

The debate between Loretta and Roberto Alomar for top second baseman in franchise history is a tight one. No, historically Loretta isn't at Alomar's Hall of Fame level. But during Alomar's tenure in San Diego, he was solid, but not yet a superstar. Loretta, meanwhile, posted two of the most valuable seasons by an infielder in franchise history in 2003 and '04. Loretta's .335 batting average in '04 is the only single-season average in the franchise's top 10 that doesn't belong to Tony Gwynn. He also played a strong second base and racked up 1.5 more WAR that Alomar did in his best season with the Padres (1989).

Third base: , 1996
.326/.408/.621, 40 home runs, 7.6 WAR

Any debate about the best seasons in Padres history starts with Gwynn. But remove Gwynn from the equation, and it's hard to argue against Caminiti's 1996 season as the best in franchise history. He became the Padres' only NL MVP Award winner, while taking home Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards as well. At the time, Caminiti's 40 homers were the most by a Padres hitter in a season. His 130 RBIs are still the most. On the strength of Caminiti's production in '96, San Diego won its second NL West title.

Shortstop: Fernando Tatis Jr., 2021
.282/.364/.611, 42 home runs, 25 steals, 6.6 WAR

No shortstop in franchise history has played at the level Tatis has since his debut in 2019. He has established himself as a bona fide five-tool superstar, and in 2021 he thrust himself squarely into the NL MVP Award debate, with inarguably the best season by a shortstop in franchise history. Tatis finished third in the voting, but his 42 homers are the second-most by a Padres hitter at any position, and he won both Silver Slugger and First-Team All-MLB honors. As a franchise, the Padres have often felt cursed at shortstop. They are cursed no more.

Left field: Greg Vaughn, 1998
.272/.363/.597, 50 home runs, 6.3 WAR

Vaughn provided just what the Padres needed on their run to the 1998 NL pennant. They had a fairly complete offense, but they were lacking a serious run-producing threat in the middle of their lineup. After an injury-plagued '97 season, Vaughn delivered that thump. His 50 homers are the most in franchise history, and he added three more in the postseason, including two in the World Series.

Center field: , 1996
.298/.354/.531, 30 home runs, 22 steals, 5.8 WAR

Along with Caminiti, the Padres also landed Finley in the 1994 deal that sent Derek Bell to Houston. Safe to say that deal paid major dividends for San Diego in '96. Finley's season was solid in every facet. He hit, hit for power, stole bases and took home the second of his five Gold Glove Awards.

Right field: , 1987
.370/.447/.511, seven home runs, 56 steals, 8.5 WAR

Poor Dave Winfield. He authored some immaculate seasons in right field for the Padres from 1974-80. But he's got no shot here. There's no question which player occupies this spot. But there are questions about which Gwynn season belongs here. His strike-shortened 1994 season has a chance, as Gwynn famously finished with a .394 batting average, the highest since World War II. You could make a very good case for his '84 season, in which he batted .351 and led San Diego to the NL pennant.

But Gwynn was at his absolute best in 1987. He led the NL in hits (218) and average. He won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. He swiped 56 bases and tallied 13 triples. He did it all.

Starting pitcher: Kevin Brown, 1998
2.38 ERA, 2.23 FIP, 257 strikeouts, 18-7, 8.6 WAR

Randy Jones' 1975 and '76 seasons are downright remarkable for both the performance and the volume. Jones won a Cy Young Award and an ERA title. He threw more complete games in those two seasons than the Padres have since they moved to Petco Park in 2004. But now that we've given Jones his due, there's only one choice for the top spot on this list.

Brown spent only one season with the Padres, but it was one of the best seasons for anyone who has worn their uniform. He was lights-out at the front of the San Diego rotation, then even better in the postseason. The biggest reason the Padres captured their second NL pennant in 1998? Look no further than Brown. His 257 strikeouts are a single-season franchise record, as is his 8.6 WAR.

Relief pitcher: , 1998
1.48 ERA, 2.04 FIP, 0.85 WHIP, 53 saves, 4.1 WAR

Some decent arms on that 1998 Padres pitching staff, eh? Through the years, the Padres have gotten some brilliant seasons from their closers -- from Goose Gossage to Rollie Fingers to Mark Davis to Heath Bell to Kirby Yates. But Hoffman's '98 campaign stands alone. His 53 saves set an NL record at the time, and his lockdown 1.48 ERA put him in contention for the NL Cy Young Award. Hoffman finished second, likely splitting votes with Brown, which allowed Tom Glavine to take home the hardware.