Lyle Spencer

ASG debate: Pederson gets edge over Upton

Both outfielders worthy of making National League All-Star team

ASG debate: Pederson gets edge over Upton

*** We will be doing daily ASG debates until voting on the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot 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 great candidates for that position. In fact, your comments could spark a new debate for us to tackle. So let us know what you think! ***

Justin Upton, their new left fielder, is the most deserving All-Star on the Padres, a team struggling to meet inflated expectations after a winter of bold maneuvering by new general manager A.J. Preller.

The question of the day is whether Upton or Dodgers rookie wonder Joc Pederson is more qualified to start for the National League in the 2015 Major League All-Star Game on July 14 in Cincinnati. Based on first-half performances, a strong case can be made for Pederson and Upton joining Nationals star Bryce Harper in the starting NL outfield.

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As good as Upton has been, this season and for the seven that preceded it with the D-backs and Braves, Pederson's performance is simply impossible to overlook, giving him the edge. If not for the nightly highlights generated by Harper, Pederson might be the league's most talked-about talent.

Pederson is fresh and new. In that sense, Joc has replaced teammate Yasiel Puig, who is making strides toward coming back from hamstring issues.

An eruption of home runs has Pederson among the league leaders with 17, which included a stretch of five consecutive games with a homer that ended Thursday night. His slash line of .266/.390/.603 is comparable to that of Upton, who checks in at .300/.362/.525. Pederson, at .993, trails only Harper in OPS among NL outfielders, while Upton's .887 is good for fourth. The Dodgers' Andre Ethier is third at .897.

Pederson's bat brings the pain

With Matt Kemp scuffling, Upton has been the focal point of the Padres' offense with 12 homers and 37 RBIs, stealing 11 bases without getting caught. His WAR is measured at 1.9 by and 1.5 by, tying him with Derek Norris for the team lead.

Pederson, with an edge defensively over Upton, draws a 2.6 WAR from Baseball-Reference and a 2.8 WAR by FanGraphs -- highest among all players on a star-laden Dodgers club. Pederson, who opened the season batting eighth, has driven in 32 runs and scored 34, one fewer than Upton.

J. Upton's grand slam

Taking his team's performance into account is another plus for Pederson in this discussion. The Dodgers lead the NL West, with the Padres in third place at 27-28.

A left-handed-hitting leadoff man, Pederson doesn't fit the stereotype of the slap-hitting singles hitter. He's locked and loaded for every delivery, bringing uncommon discipline to the plate for a young athlete at 23 years old. In that regard, he most resembles reigning American League Most Valuable Player Mike Trout, who dazzles down Interstate 5 for the Angels.

Like Trout, Pederson plays center field with style, making the spectacular play appear almost routine. Both clearly love the game and hold nothing back, playing with a joy and passion impossible to miss. That was evident at the 2014 All-Star Game when Trout claimed the Most Valuable Player Award for leading the AL, along with Derek Jeter, to a victory that gave home-field advantage in the World Series to the eventual league champion Royals.

Pederson shuns comparisons, knowing it's far too early in the game to have his name associated with proven superstars. But if he's looking for a role model in the game today, Trout would be a wise choice.

Upton, 27, was acquired on Dec. 19 from the Braves in a six-player swap that sent a pair of Petersons -- Dustin and Jace -- to Atlanta. Jace Peterson has excelled for the Braves at second base.

Lyle Spencer is a national reporter and columnist for Follow him on Twitter @LyleMSpencer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.