DENVER -- The Cubs came to Colorado with arguably the two top National League MVP candidates in Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, but a few in their clubhouse believe the Rockies' Nolan Arenado should also be considered.
Arenado has admittedly been in a funk since the All-Star break, but he still paces the league with 30 homers, tied with Bryant, who has been the Majors' hottest player over the past month. Bryant and Arenado finished first and second, respectively, in All-Star fan voting among NL third basemen, and Arenado topped the player ballot.
They are among the game's youngest and most talented third basemen, and they have much mutual respect for each other.
Arenado on Bryant: "Defensively, he's obviously unique, because he can play the outfield. He can play third base. He can do a lot of things. So that's very valuable to a team. I guess he's a very complete player when it comes to the five tools. It seems like he's got all of them. I take pride in my defense, so it's nice to watch people that take pride in their defense also and make great plays. I love watching him play."
And Bryant on Arenado: "I think he's one of the more underrated players in the game. I mean, he seems to do everything right on the field. Defensively, he's unbelievable with some of the plays he makes. At the plate, you can learn a lot from him, just how he goes about his at-bats. And kind of getting to know him a little bit at the All-Star Game, he just seems like an unbelievable dude to be around."
Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, who won't pitch in Colorado, said the two have become such difficult outs because of their ability to capitalize on pitches low and away and on the hands. According to Statcast™, Arenado hits .357 and .333, respectively, in those areas on pitches inside the strike zone, while Bryant hits .372 and .410, respectively. They are each 46 percent pull hitters, according to FanGraphs.
Although there are similarities between Arenado and Bryant, Arrieta said that Arenado reminds him more of Manny Machado, with whom he spent three seasons in the Orioles organization before being traded to the Cubs.
"[Arenado] is a guy that if you make a mistake, there's a good chance that he's doing damage," said Arrieta, who has given up two doubles to Arenado, with zero strikeouts, in nine at-bats. "He really capitalizes on mistakes. He can hit the ball for power to the opposite field, and if you make a mistake on the inside part of the plate, he can take you deep to left field or to left-center. There's not a lot of room for error."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon recalls facing Arenado in May 2013, when with the Rays. Arenado debuted five days prior, and in that three-game series, went 6-for-14 with two homers, two doubles and six RBIs.
"I love him," Maddon said, while noting that Arenado should be in the NL MVP discussion. "I was really impressed with him the very first time I saw him. Extraordinary power, great swing. [He] battles. But defensively, you've got to watch him, man. This guy is really good on defense, too."
Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.