Here are the Top 10 Padres rookie seasons

May 19th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- A year ago, the Padres promoted Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack before Opening Day because they felt the duo could make an instant impact. They weren't wrong.

Tatis and Paddack combined to serve as arguably the best rookie duo in franchise history. But where do their rookie seasons stack up among the all-time best in franchise history? Here are 10 of the best:

10. Chris Paddack, 2019
Call it recency bias if you like. But 's rookie season stacks up favorably with just about any rookie pitching season in franchise history. Among pitchers with at least 20 starts, Paddack's 3.33 ERA and his 127 ERA+ are easily tops in franchise history. His peripherals are excellent, too. Paddack's 5.5 percent walk rate is second-lowest for a rookie in franchise history, and his 26.9 percent K rate is third-highest. It's extremely difficult to sort the Padres' all-time best rookie pitching seasons (as we'll get to next). But Paddack deserves a place on the list.

9. Joey Hamilton, 1994
The Padres have never had an overwhelmingly dominant rookie season from a starting pitcher. Thus, their top pitching seasons are difficult to sort because they fall into four categories:

• Utterly dominant short-stint relievers (like Akinori Otsuka and Cla Meredith)
• Less dominant relievers who pitched more (Luis DeLeón, Lance McCullers, Greg Harris, Butch Metzger)
• Very good starters who didn't get a full workload (Hamilton, Paddack, Randy Jones)
• Decent starters who got a full workload and racked up counting stats (Dave Freisleben, Steve Arlin)

In this purely subjective ranking, let's lean toward excellent starting pitching. 's rookie season was cut short by the strike. But he posted a 2.98 ERA over 16 starts during a peak offensive era. His 139 ERA+ is the best for a rookie starter in franchise history. That's good enough to make him the top pitcher on this list.

8. Gene Richards, 1977
An underappreciated player with an underrated rookie season, Gene Richards batted .290/.363/.390 and swiped 56 bases, then a rookie record.

7. Ozzie Smith, 1978
didn’t break through as a hitter until he was in St. Louis. But he was always The Wizard with his glove. In fact, the signature defensive play of Smith's career came in his 10th game as a big leaguer. He ranged to his left and robbed Jeff Burroughs' one-hop smash bare-handed. Thanks mostly to that elite defense, Smith finished second in the 1978 National League Rookie of the Year Award voting.

6. Johnny Grubb, 1973
A few more plate appearances, and Johnny Grubb would have posted the best offensive season for a qualifying rookie in franchise history. His numbers are still gaudy. In 113 games, Grubb batted .311/.373/.445 -- probably the best slash line for any Padres rookie with at least 100 games.

5. Carmelo Martinez, 1984
Carmelo Martinez edges out Grubb for the best rookie season by a Padres outfielder because of his workload. His '84 campaign ranks third in both bWAR and fWAR among all Padres rookies. Martinez batted .250/.340/.395 and anchored left field as the Friars pushed for their first NL pennant.

4. Khalil Greene, 2004
If the vote were held today, it's hard to envision not winning NL Rookie of the Year. He batted .273/.349/.446 while playing excellent defense at a premium position. The shortstop finished well ahead of ROY winner Jason Bay in both bWAR and fWAR. But with early-2000s voting trends, Greene finished second.

3. Fernando Tatis Jr., 2019
Had he not suffered a season-ending back injury in mid-August, probably sits atop this list. Instead, he has to settle for the best rookie batting average (.317) and OPS (.969) by any Padres rookie with at least 200 plate appearances. Oh, and a career's worth of highlight-reel plays before he turned 21.

2. Roberto Alomar, 1988
It's easy to draw comparisons between and Tatis -- the two youngest infielders in franchise history. Both were sons of Major Leaguers, and both of their arrivals came with plenty of fanfare. Each lived up to the hype. After a mid-April callup, Alomar batted .266/.328/.382 in 1988 while playing a spectacular second base. His 4.4 bWAR and 3.9 fWAR are the highest marks for any Padres rookie.

Pausing here for some honorable mentions on the hitters' side of things: John Kruk's offensive numbers in 1986 stack up favorably with Grubb's in '73. (His defense keeps him out of the top 10.) Yasmani Grandal played only 60 games in 2012, but few Padres rookies have been as dominant on both sides of the ball. In 1969, the franchise's rookie season, Nate Colbert smashed 24 homers and posted an .804 OPS -- the highest mark for a Padres rookie who qualified for the batting title.

1. Benito Santiago, 1987
Hard to imagine anyone ever having a season like this one again. caught 146 games as a 22-year-old rookie, and he still batted .300 with 18 home runs. (Since World War II, the only other qualifying rookie catchers to hit .300 are Mike Piazza and Thurman Munson.)

Santiago's 1987 campaign will always be defined by his 34-game hitting streak -- the best all-time for a rookie, for a catcher and for a Padre. He took home the first of his four NL Silver Slugger Awards that season, though he had to wait a year to win the first of his three NL Gold Gloves.

Still, it doesn't get much better than an elite defensive catcher hitting .300 with power. Santiago took home NL Rookie of the Year honors, and his '87 campaign is still the gold standard by which all Padres rookies are judged.