Dream debuts: Padres who starred instantly

February 1st, 2021

Making a good first impression is never easy -- but these five Padres made it look that way. From a history-making rookie to a handful of big-name trade acquisitions, these are the five best debut seasons in franchise history:

1. , 1998

Brown’s debut season in San Diego was his only season in a Padres uniform. But it was a special one. The veteran right-hander authored arguably the greatest pitching campaign in Padres history, posting a 2.38 ERA with 257 strikeouts and a team-record 11 straight victories at one point. He was the unquestioned ace of the 1998 NL West champs. And Brown upped his game in the postseason with a 16-K gem in the NLDS and a shutout in the NLCS. Brown’s stay in San Diego would be short-lived, however. He signed with the Dodgers after the season. But there haven’t been many better one-season fits in baseball history than Brown and the ‘98 Padres.

2. , 1978

Here's a steal of a trade: Gaylord Perry for Dave Tomlin. Even after adding the $125,000 the Padres also sent to Texas, it's one of the most lopsided trades in San Diego's favor in franchise history. In Perry's first season with the Padres he won the NL Cy Young Award, going 21-6 with a 2.73 ERA. He accounted for a quarter of all Padres victories that year, and he tallied his 3,000th career strikeout in his final start.

3. , 1992

Dealt to the Padres on the eve of the regular season in 1992, Sheffield made the leap from good hitter to great in San Diego. He spent most of the season chasing the Triple Crown, though he would fall just short with 33 homers and 100 RBIs. Still, Sheffield's .330 average made him the only Padre other than Tony Gwynn to capture a batting title. Sheffield also led the league in total bases (323), and he finished with a .965 OPS -- easily the best debut season for a hitter in Padres history.

4. , 1987

Santiago received a late-September callup in 1986, but for the purposes of this exercise, we're looking at his '87 season -- the best by a rookie in franchise history. There likely won't be another breakthrough season for a catcher quite like Santiago's. He caught 146 games as a 22-year-old rookie and still batted .300 with 18 home runs. Santiago's ’87 season will forever be defined by a 34-game hitting streak which qualifies as the best all-time for a rookie, for a catcher and for a Padre.

The Padres were fresh off a division title when they swung a six-player blockbuster with the Rangers in January 2006, and González went a long way toward making sure they'd eventually repeat as NL West champs. González had played in parts of the '04 and '05 seasons with Texas, but '06 marked his first full big league season, and he made the most of it. The sweet-swinging first baseman slashed .304/.362/.500 with 24 homers, while showcasing his usual outstanding glovework. Then, he batted .357 and reached base at a .471 clip as the Padres bowed out to the eventual-champion Cardinals in the NLDS.