MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

ASG debate: Bryant or Carpenter at third?

While Cubs' Bryant has bright future, Cardinals' Carpenter is tops right now

ASG debate: Bryant or Carpenter at third?

We will be doing daily ASG debates until balloting ends on July 2. We will frequently be pitting one player against another and have a writer make a case for one of them, but that doesn't mean there aren't other good candidates for that position. In fact, your comments could spark a new debate for us to tackle. So let us know what you think!

Forget whether he has actually started hitting bombs: Kris Bryant is the bomb.

Bryant has reached the National League with the same buzz as did Bryce Harper, his former Little League teammate back in Las Vegas. But after three years at the University of San Diego and a season and a half in the Cubs' system, Bryant appears more polished than Harper in 2012, when he came off the bench for the NL All-Star team in Kansas City.

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Bryant, the second overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, is part of the remarkable turnaround under Cubs manager Joe Maddon and figures to be a major part of the NL storyline for the foreseeable future. He's a good athlete who runs the bases with abandon, has the versatility to play the outfield (even center field), knows the strike zone like a savant and barrels up a ball the way Barry Bonds did. Scouts see him hitting 30-plus home runs, easy.

Bryant's RBI single

Pretty impressive, huh? But with all that said, Bryant's not yet the best third baseman in his division, let alone his league.

While the Rockies' Nolan Arenado is also worth a look, the question here is who should be the NL's starting third baseman in the All-Star Game -- the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter or Bryant? This is an argument that could rage for years, to be settled by the millions of online voters who voice their opinions with their keyboards.

For the moment, Carpenter gets the nod for how his solid play, year in and year out, has played a huge role in keeping the Cardinals in the postseason in the post-Albert Pujols era. He's counted on to get on base consistently while fielding his position to the advantage of St. Louis' pitchers, and he's been doing both in 2015.

Carpenter's diving stop

Unlike Bryant, Carpenter wasn't a Draft darling. He played as a senior at TCU, turning it up that last year just to be picked in the 13th round of the 2009 Draft. He developed a work ethic in the process that carries him to this day, as Cardinals manager Mike Matheny sometimes worries that he spends too much time in the cage, taking grounders or studying video.

"He doesn't take a day for granted," said Matheny.

It shows. Carpenter finished April batting .378 with a .446 on-base percentage and a stunning 1.101 OPS. That's probably not sustainable. But his three home runs in 90 April at-bats suggest he might hit 15-20 homers for Matheny this year, which would be a big plus for a power-starved lineup. Like Bryant, he'll draw a lot of walks, and Carpenter will almost certainly strike out less.

Really, you can't go wrong with either choice. That's how good they both are. But Carpenter has earned the right to be king of the hill. He'll have to fight to stay there.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.