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Fantasy411 Podcast: Which ace should be top pick?

There are four hurlers battling for top spot, but whom should you take first?
MLB.com

The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's Fantasy411 podcast, hosted by MLB.com lead fantasy writer Fred Zinkie and national editor Matthew Leach. To hear the rest of their discussion, subscribe to the Fantasy411 podcast by clicking here.

Matthew Leach: We now move on to our starting pitcher preview, and that is the surest sign that we are moving toward a new season. It is a four-name top tier. I feel like it is kind of a reflection of Clayton Kershaw's health and bringing him back to the field a little bit, but it is a pretty clear top tier. The question is the order. Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. If I tell you that even despite the occasional nagging thing, Scherzer's durability, and the fact that Kershaw's injuries are back injuries, which are scary and don't tend to go away completely, because of that I like Scherzer. Am I completely nuts to think that?

The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's Fantasy411 podcast, hosted by MLB.com lead fantasy writer Fred Zinkie and national editor Matthew Leach. To hear the rest of their discussion, subscribe to the Fantasy411 podcast by clicking here.

Matthew Leach: We now move on to our starting pitcher preview, and that is the surest sign that we are moving toward a new season. It is a four-name top tier. I feel like it is kind of a reflection of Clayton Kershaw's health and bringing him back to the field a little bit, but it is a pretty clear top tier. The question is the order. Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. If I tell you that even despite the occasional nagging thing, Scherzer's durability, and the fact that Kershaw's injuries are back injuries, which are scary and don't tend to go away completely, because of that I like Scherzer. Am I completely nuts to think that?

Fred Zinkie: You are not. The market between all of these pitchers is pretty thin. Kershaw, I think, is the best. He has the ability to run away with it. He has the ability to pitch 220 innings and a high-one ERA, which he has done. I like Kershaw the best even though I know it is a risk. I spent a ton of time on these pitchers because it really interests me. You can say all of these guys are tier 1, but if you have the 10th pick in your draft, you'd likely have a choice between two or three of them, so you really have to separate them. I actually have Scherzer at the back. The reason I have him there is because of the nagging injuries at the end of last year, including the finger injury, and the fact that he is the oldest of the pitchers and having the most mileage over the last few years. For that reason I feel like he is a little riskier than Sale or Kluber, but it is really splitting hairs. I feel really safe with Kluber because I think the Indians are going to run away with the division because they have three teams in the division that are in the rebuilding process. Sale is the youngest of all of them. You asked me if you were crazy to put Scherzer first, so I'm going to ask you, do you think I am crazy to put Scherzer last?

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Leach: I could see him third. I am fairly consistently the low man on Sale. The strikeouts are ridiculous, but I still look at this guy and the 2.90 ERA that was great, but he was 3.34 the year before and 3.41 the year before that, and I kind of wonder if that is the real Sale and last year we just saw a career year. It is somewhat informed by the fact that he had that amazing run and then sort of cooled off. Look, we are splitting fine hairs here, and he is clearly four. I'm not running him down or saying that I wouldn't draft him. I just feel like the floor for Sale is the lowest of these guys. If you are taking a starting pitcher with the No. 10 overall pick, you need high ceiling and high floor. He's the one guy I wouldn't be shocked if his ratios take a step back, and he is a 3.50 ERA guy and walks a few more guys. He's clearly an ace.

Zinkie: We might have just said what we didn't say about Kluber and him being the safest of them all. Like I said, he's on a great club in a division that has three rebuilding teams that look like such easy picking for a good pitcher. He's not the oldest one in the group and doesn't have the most mileage. He has no history of arm injuries. It's hard to see Kluber having a bad season other than an injury. The Scherzer thing is just me noticing that Jon Lester, Johnny Cueto last year, Felix Hernandez at one point -- sometimes these pitchers can go south in a hurry, and I wonder about the little injuries last year.

Leach: I think that is fair. At some point that time comes for everyone. He is 34 this year. It certainly could be Scherzer.