Gerrit Cole's New York Yankees debut is currently on hold, but when he does toe the rubber for the American League East side, he is projected to deliver on high expectations.
The 29-year-old's dominant 2019 campaign with the Houston Astros handed him a massive deal with the Yankees and a spot in the first round of many fantasy baseball drafts.
Cole should be the first pitcher off the board in most drafts, with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer his top competition for that honor.
Once the Yankees star is selected, deGrom and Scherzer could follow closely after as owners look to put marquee starters on their rosters.
Missing out on one of the top three pitchers will not be a make-or-break decision at the top of drafts, but it should give owners an advantage to start the regular season.
Starting Pitcher Fantasy Rankings
1. Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees
2. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
3. Max Scherzer, Washington
4. Justin Verlander, Houston
5. Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers
6. Jack Flaherty, St. Louis
7. Stephen Strasburg, Washington
8. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
9. Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
10. Shane Bieber, Cleveland
Cole will likely be chosen in the middle of the first round in most drafts.
Once the upper echelon of outfielders is taken with the first few picks, the opportunity will be there around No. 7 to choose the right-handed hurler.
In most drafts, the owner who takes Cole would then turn around in the second round to take an infielder such as Freddie Freeman, Jose Ramirez or Nolan Arenado.
If Juan Soto is available in the second round, he could be a good option at that part of the draft as well.
No matter which player is chosen in the second round, he can be combined with Cole to give you a strong draft opening.
Cole is coming off a 20-win season in which he struck out 326 batters and earned a 2.50 ERA in 212.1 innings. He ended the regular season with double-digit strikeouts in nine consecutive appearances. In total, he fanned at least 10 batters in 21 contests.
The high volume of strikeouts combined with 15 outings of seven innings or more should be enough to draw you to Cole in the first round.
Even if he does not eclipse the 300-strikeout mark again, his consistency throughout his career in certain stat categories make him a trustworthy fantasy player.
Cole has six 10-win seasons in his seven-year career with the Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates, he has had an ERA over 4.00 once and struck out 200 batters on three occasions.
If you are in a 10-team league, there is a chance you could land Cole and deGrom with your first two selections.
It would be a risky strategy to ignore the top sluggers, but it could pay off if the two hurlers come close to replicating their 2019 performances.
That would be harder to pull off in a 12-team league since deGrom likely will not be available past the No. 12 overall pick.
Although the 31-year-old lacked victories on a consistent basis in 2019, he produced in every other category. The right-handed hurler struck out 255 batters, had 11.3 strikeouts-per-nine innings and a 2.43 ERA.
DeGrom has 21 wins over the last two seasons because of the New York Mets' inability to provide run support when he takes the hill.
In July and August, he had five decisions in 10 starts and did not receive more than six runs from his offense in that stretch. That sequence also included losses of 1-0, 2-1 and 4-1 in which he held up his end of the bargain by lasting at least seven innings.
If the Mets' offensive production improves, deGrom could increase his win total to go along with his reliable ERA and strikeout numbers.
The primary difference between Scherzer and deGrom is the Washington hurler should be in line for more winning situations in 2020.
The 35-year-old had a down year by his standards in 2019 by recording 11 wins, a total that extended his double-digit victory streak to 10 years. Before last year, he had an average of 17 victories per season with the Nationals.
Just like Cole and deGrom, Scherzer has been consistent in the strikeout department, as he has fanned 200 batters in every season since 2012. In that same span, he put up an ERA over 3.00 on two occasions and has had over 10 strikeout-per-nine innings.
It seems unlikely Scherzer will last past the No. 15 overall pick, so if you take a position player at the back end of the first round, he would be a strong second-round option.
Teams at the top end of the first round may not come away with a star hurler in the first two rounds, especially in a 12-team league.
If you miss out on Cole, deGrom or Scherzer, Walker Buehler or Justin Verlander could be available in the third round as an anchor for your pitching staff.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference.