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Kershaw tops the list of risky picks

Clayton Kershaw is the consensus No. 1 starting pitcher heading into this season, but he does come with injury concerns. Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The three outfielders other than Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout selected in the first round of ESPN average live drafts this time last year sure didn’t seem like overly risky picks. Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper boasted only one superstar season to his credit, but it was just so great that it seemed incomprehensible he’d end up outside the top-20 outfielders for 2016. At least he outperformed Pittsburgh Pirates icon Andrew McCutchen and Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton. They didn’t fare nearly as well, and each of these three gents was a top-10 fantasy selection. Whatever risk they possessed at the time seemed worth it.

Veteran fantasy owners tend to have different viewpoints about risk versus reward. To some, if you’re not finishing in first place then it might as well be last place, so constructing a roster built around precarious but high-upside options seems attractive. To others -- and I’m in this section -- I tend to make it a goal to minimize risk, so there are certain players I just want no part of. Boston Red Sox lefty David Price is a great example. He can be had so many rounds later than what would have occurred sans elbow concerns, but at this writing, he’s not out for the year. He might pitch in April. He might be great. Or he might be done. In the early rounds, there's no chance I invest.

Nevertheless, this isn’t a blog entry about this season’s riskiest first-round selections, even though every season the same type of stuff does seem to happen. Harper was clearly not healthy after April. McCutchen seemed to hit some physical wall until the final two months. Stanton got hurt again and now we view him differently, but a year ago he was universally beloved. So was Troy Tulowitzki a few seasons ago. And there are no truly risky picks after the middle rounds. Take a chance on Matt Harvey, Eric Thames, Manuel Margot, Koda Glover and Price if you want, because the investment is relatively minor.

Risky picks in top 20: I seem to be alone on an island on this one, but Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, while so ridiculously talented that he pitched through his back ailment for a while and was still great, then missed a third of the season and still ended up the No. 2 pitcher, is a risk.