Imagine you're the general manager of a Major League Baseball team and every roster was redrafted with each player going into a fantasy draft format.
Your team's spot comes up in the first round and both Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado are there. Which one do you choose?
The Bryant-Arenado "debate" has been a fun exercise for Cubs and Rockies fans alike on social media the last few years while both third basemen have positioned themselves firmly in the conversation of the game's best players.
The two have squared off "against" each other six times over the last 10 days, with a Cubs-Rockies series at Wrigley Field coming just over a week after the three-game set at Coors Field.
In those six games, Bryant has posted a .970 OPS, going 5-for-19 (.263 AVG) with a double, a triple, a homer, 2 RBI and 4 runs. Arenado has absolutely mashed, hitting 5 of his 7 homers in 2018 off Cubs pitching while posting a .462/.500/1.115 slash line (1.615 OPS) in those six games, collecting 12 hits and a pair of walks in 28 plate appearances.
If I'm a GM, Bryant would be my choice between the two, though it's ridiculously close. And it's also necessary to point out that I am biased, given I've seen Bryant play several hundred more games than I've seen Arenado with my own eyes.
Allow me to explain in a super-scientific way:
Let's start with age.
Both players are right at the beginning of their prime, so should be among the game's best players for another few years, at the very least.
Arenado was born 9 months before Bryant and due to an earlier call-up to the big leagues, will be a free agent in 2020. Bryant doesn't hit the market until 2022.
This is the toughest one to compare, as Arenado and Bryant are both rather different hitters with vastly different home ballparks.
Due to the wind blowing in at Wrigley Field a bunch over the last couple years, Bryant's home digs often serves as a pitcher's park. Coors Field, meanwhile, has always been a hitter's paradise.
Arenado is still a fantastic hitter, but he still has some pretty heavy home/road splits the last three years: .321 AVG/1.008 OPS at home, .273 AVG/.852 OPS on the road.
Arenado has also flashed power on a more regular basis with at least 37 homers in each of the last 3 seasons. He led the NL in homers, RBI and total bases in 2015 and 2016 and paced the Senior Circuit in doubles in 2017.
Bryant, of course, has been no slouch in the power department, but has just one 30-homer season under his belt (2016).
Bryant strikes out more than Arenado, but also draws walks at a much higher clip and because of that, is still able to provide his team value even during a hitting slump.
For their careers, Bryant has a .917 OPS, 37 points higher than Arenado's .880 mark.
Since the start of the 2015 season, here's how the offense matches up:
TOTAL BASES: 1121
TOTAL BASES: 947
Arenado hits for more power and a higher batting average, but he does create more outs with his swing. Bryant walked 82 times more than Arenado did in 22 fewer games.
Those are just the back-of-the-baseball-card numbers, too. One of the best indicators of a player's overall offensive value in the world of advanced stats is OPS+, which accounts for home ballpark and every other factor. An OPS+ of 100 is average, so an OPS+ of 125 means that hitter is 25 percent better than the league average player.
Bryant has posted an OPS+ of 142 in his career compared to Arenado's 130 since the start of the 2015 season.
Edge: We'll call it a draw, just because either guy is a gamechanger with the bat in his hands.
Arenado has saved 104 runs with his defense over his career across the nearly 6,400 innings at third base. Gold Glove voting isn't always the best way to tell the quality of a fielder, but the Rockies star has taken home the honor since his rookie season in 2013 and will look to make it 6 years in a row in 2018.
Only Andrelton Simmons (147 DRS) has saved more runs with his glove since the start of the 2013 season. Jason Heyward is third on the list at 92 DRS, 12 behind Arenado.
"I've always loved his defense," Maddon said after watching Arenado play six games over the last two weeks. "He's got a strong arm, he's accurate, he makes all the plays on defense.
"And of course, he's a very good hitter, don't get me wrong. But the thing that stands out to me is his defense."
Bryant, meanwhile, has saved 15 runs with his defense over his four years in the big leagues — 9 DRS at third base, 6 DRS as an outfielder. That's nothing to scoff at, but nowhere near the level of glovework Arenado provides.
Bryant takes this one home and it's not particularly close. For their careers, Bryant has been worth 18.2 runs above average with his baserunning ability (by Fangraphs' metric) while Arenado has been at -7.2.
Both players are fantastic role models for the game of baseball and leaders in the clubhouse (even if only by example). They both have that extra "it" factor inside them to strive for greatness.
Bryant has a bit more edge in terms of flexibility to his manager by being able to play first base and all three outfield spots in addition to third base. But the Rockies would never need to move Arenado off the hot corner with his ridiculous defense there, so positional versatility shouldn't really apply.
Edge: We'll call it a draw again, mainly because it's so difficult to quantify intangibles
Bryant gets the nod here, though again, it's insanely close. The overall skillset and youth/team control factor are in Bryant's favor.
But the advanced stats are also in KB's corner. Bryant has been worth 21.6 WAR (FanGraphs) in 481 games compared to Arenado's 20.7 WAR in 747 career games.