New York Yankees RHP Gerrit Cole and Atlanta Braves RHP Spencer Strider may finish atop the season Player Rater among starting pitchers, but they were also among the first pitchers to go in ESPN average live drafts. Try finding Tampa Bay Rays RHP Zach Eflin and Chicago Cubs LHP Justin Steele in your league draft results. Chances are they were not picked at all, and since they are also among the top pitchers in fantasy scoring this season, not far from Cole, Strider and other desirable draft day options, they deserve top consideration for fantasy starting pitcher MVP this season.
Eflin was generally not regarded as a reliable, top-75 starting pitcher option in his seven seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, often struggling with knee problems and inconsistency on the mound. The Rays saw great possibility, though, and lavished him with a three-year contract this past offseason, the richest deal in franchise history. They have been rewarded with Eflin's career bests in all key categories, from wins to ERA to games started, and he should receive some AL Cy Young award votes.
Steele was a bit more popular in drafts, coming off a season in which he fashioned a 3.18 ERA over 24 starts, his second in the major leagues, although he won only four of his outings. This season, Steele won more than half his outings and tossed a scoreless inning in the All-Star game. He is among the leaders in wins, winning percentage, home run suppression and ERA, while striking out nearly a hitter per inning, and may win the NL Cy Young award. As with Eflin, he has been a top-10 fantasy starting pitcher with minimal investment.