Padres' Top 5 third basemen: Cassavell's take

April 13th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is AJ Cassavell’s ranking of the top five third basemen in Padres history. Next week: shortstop.

1. Ken Caminiti, 1995-98
Key fact: Caminiti is the only Padre to earn National League MVP honors, taking home the award in 1996 with an absurd .326/.408/.621 slash line.

spent only four years in San Diego, but they were four of the most productive seasons in franchise history. He arrived in December 1994 as part of a blockbuster deal with the Astros (a trade that also netted ). Caminiti made an instant impact in '95, but he saved his best for the following season. Sparking the Padres to their first division title in 12 years, Caminiti racked up 7.6 wins above replacement, one of the best offensive seasons in franchise history.

• Padres' All-Time Team: C | 1B | 2B

A switch-hitter with legit power from both sides, Caminiti also took home three straight NL Gold Glove Awards from 1995-97, and he reached a pair of All-Star Games while in San Diego. He departed as a free agent after the ’98 season for a return to Houston. But Caminiti's elite peak makes him the easy choice as the best Padres third baseman of all-time.

2. Phil Nevin, 1999-2005
Key fact: Nevin's 156 home runs are the most among Padres who primarily played third base.

There wasn't much drop-off after Caminiti's departure. made sure of that. Upon his arrival, Nevin put forth a three-season stretch in which he posted a .929 OPS with 96 homers. He was named to the National League All-Star team in 2001, but he didn’t quite reach those heights again. After moving to first base because of his defensive shortcomings, Nevin dealt with a slew of elbow and shoulder injuries in 2002 and '03. He was traded during the team's run to an NL West crown in '05 but still left an important legacy.

3. Chase Headley, 2007-14, ’18
Key fact: Headley racked up more hits and doubles as a third baseman than any other player in franchise history.

From 2007-14, was a steady and consistent presence at third base in San Diego. He played an important role on the 2010 club that fell short of a division crown on the final day, and he authored six seasons where he was above league average offensively, according to wRC+. But Headley's signature season came in 2012 -- arguably the second best for a Padres third baseman (behind only Caminiti's 1996 campaign). Headley batted .286/.376/.498 with 31 homers and a league-leading 115 RBIs. He took home the NL Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards at third base and finished fifth in NL MVP voting. It was Headley's only truly remarkable season among the nine he spent in San Diego. But his consistency during that time is laudable.

4. Gary Sheffield, 1992-93
Key fact: Sheffield remains the only batting champ in franchise history other than Tony Gwynn (who led the NL in batting average eight times).

's tenure in San Diego may have been short, but it was electric. He took home the 1992 batting title with a .330 average and even made a brief push for the Triple Crown that season. Sheffield finished third in MVP voting in ’92. By midseason in ’93, ownership had begun its "fire sale," trading a number of veterans. Sheffield -- after hitting .295 with an .817 OPS over the first three months -- became a casualty of that fire sale in late June. The return? It included an unheralded righty reliever named .

5. Graig Nettles, 1984-86
Key fact: Nettles had more walks than strikeouts in each of his first two seasons with the Padres.

Nos. 1-4 fall into place nicely on this list. But the No. 5 spot is wide open. With a host of deserving candidates, gets the nod for his role on the 1984 NL pennant-winning club. Despite a low batting average, Nettles played excellent defense and reached base at a .333 clip during his three-year tenure in San Diego. A native of San Diego, Nettles played both baseball and basketball at San Diego State. He was dealt to the Padres on the eve of the regular season in ’84 and played an important role in the franchise's first trip to the World Series. A year later, he was named to his sixth and final All-Star team.

Honorable mention
ranks fifth among Padres third basemen in runs and hits and fourth in home runs.

wasn't always an everyday player, but his 7.9 WAR ranks fourth among third basemen in franchise history.

Luis Salazar's 551 games at third trail only Headley, and he spent seven solid seasons in San Diego.

was a fan favorite and a useful infield piece on who accrued 6.7 WAR in San Diego -- tied for fifth among third basemen.

never quite lived up to the hype, but he posted a .282/.340/.360 slash line across parts of four seasons.

• It might not be very long before begins inching his way up this list.