2024 Fantasy Baseball Quality Start Targets

by Ryan Kirksey
2024 Fantasy Baseball Quality Start Targets

More and more fantasy leagues are beginning to understand the flaws in the "Win" statistic and are looking for approaches to substitute what is often out of the pitcher's control to a category that puts more emphasis on how the pitcher performs. The Quality Start seems to be the most popular solution for now. While it is not perfect, it is completely divorced from what the pitcher's offense does on any given night. With the stat gaining in popularity, this article looks at Quality Start Targets for the 2024 Fantasy Baseball season.

A quality start is defined as six or more innings pitched with no more than three earned runs. It's far from perfect and some leagues are beginning to even move to more advanced ways to measure appearances. Still, it's been around long enough to become a scoring category option. Based on our Fantasy Six Pack pitcher projections, we can identify some good candidates.

Below are five quality start specialists who are going under the radar that you can target at different ADPs in the first 15 rounds of your draft. These pitchers may not pile up wins, but will contribute well in quality starts.

Our Fantasy Baseball Cheat Sheet can help you identify these players while you're drafting as well since you can customize it to use the Quality Start category instead of Wins.

2024 Fantasy Baseball Quality Start Targets

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Justin Steele, SP, Chicago Cubs

The 2024 season was a breakout campaign for Justin Steele no matter what stat you choose to evaluate. But the quality starts for Steele were almost unmatched. In fact, only four players had more than Steele's 20 quality starts, and he tacked on 16 wins as part of those starts.

As a 27-year-old, Steele was able to coax a huge drop in walks from his arsenal (3.78 BB/9 in 2022 to 1.87 BB/9). His strikeouts and batting average on balls in play (BABIP) held steady.

Now the nominal ace in the Cubs' rotation with Marcus Stroman gone, Steele will not go unnoticed again in 2024, but the Cubs' offense could regress if they lose Cody Bellinger to free agency. He will continue to rely on his wicked slider, that helped him maximize his gains in 2023. After only throwing that pitch 16% of the time in his debut season of 2021, it was up to 33% in 2023. That pitch plus a 92-mile-per-hour sinking fastball is a lethal combination to batters.

Mitch Keller, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Mitch Keller was one of only 19 pitchers in MLB to reach at least 18 quality starts in 2023. Most of that heavy lifting was done in the first half, however. After the All-Star break, Keller had a 5.59 ERA and 1.44 WHIP after going 3.31/1.2 in the first half. What that tells us, however, is that if Keller can find some consistency, he could be in line for more quality start opportunities in 2024.

Keller's 194 innings were a career-high by more than 35 innings, so some fatigue likely set in. Now that he has that level of experience, he hopes to hold the gains he made in 2023. His strikeout rate jumped from 7.81/9 to 9.73/9. He almost lost one walk per nine innings as well. The Pirates are likely to be mediocre to bad once again, but that shouldn't stop Keller from piling up quality starts, especially with an elite pitchers' ballpark for half his games. He is currently going around pick 172 in NFBC drafts.

Tanner Bibee, SP, Cleveland Guardians

After just three AAA starts for Bibee in 2023, the Guardians had seen enough and they called Bibee up to the big club for 25 starts. The rookie (who is only 24!) turned those into 11 quality starts thanks to a strikeout per inning and a miniscule 0.82 HR/9 rate. He would have had another, but was taken out with two outs in the sixth in his early-season debut.

Now projected as the number three starter in the Cleveland rotation, Bibee won't take anyone by surprise. Fantasy managers haven't fully jumped on board yet, however.

Bibee is going around pick 118 in drafts right now. That's firmly in the Joe Musgrove and Sonny Gray territory. Bibee definitely has the higher ceiling at this point in their careers.

The Guradians are projected to be a bottom-10 run-scoring team in the league in 2024. That doesn't matter to Bibee's quality starts outlook, however. With another bump to about 165 innings likely coming this year, 15+ starts in round 10 of drafts is very much within reach.

Chris Bassitt, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

Of all the pitchers on this list, Chris Bassitt has the best offense behind him, and the best track record for quality starts. Only Zach Wheeler, Gerrit Cole, and Logan Webb logged more last year. Bassitt has now improved his quality start total each of the last three seasons and has three consecutive years of at least 16. The move to Toronto last season didn't do anything to diminish his solid strikeout and ERA numbers. And he was able to ramp up to a career-high 33 starts and 200 innings at age 34.

At some point, there will start to be diminishing returns for Bassitt (who has been in the majors since 2014),  but for now, he seems to be getting better as he gets older. He limits walks and home runs. He leaves men on base when they reach (77% strand rate for his career). And he allows less than 40% fly balls for his career.

The only thing to watch on Bassitt in 2024 is the one mile per hour drop in fastball velocity between '22 and '23. That led to a tick up in hard contact. He needs to avoid that to stay in games long enough for quality starts.

Other Options to Consider

Shane Bieber, Cleveland Guardians - In 2022, Shane Bieber posted 22 quality starts, but that plummeted to 12 last season. In addition, his innings, strikeout rate, and overall stuff dropped as well. He gained almost a full run of ERA and walked more last year as well. But if Bieber's velocity can come back up, we have evidence of two 20+ quality start seasons (2019 and 2022). He's only 29 and even if the Guardians offense regresses, he can get more than 15 quality starts this year.

Kyle Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals - I have full confidence that the offense behind Gibson in St. Louis will get him plenty of wins in 2024. I also know that his pedestrian strikeout rate and lack of over-powering stuff will allow him to fly under the radar. Gibson was 10th in the American League in quality starts in 2023.

Zach Eflin, Tampa Bay Rays - "But the Rays don't leave their pitchers in long enough for quality starts!" Well, they did with Eflin last year and he amassed 17 of them in a career-high 177 innings. The Rays gamble to give Eflin a large contract paid off as he stayed healthy, had a career-best walk rate, the second-highest K/9 for his career, and his best ERA by almost a half run. Eflin will be in the game to compete for quality starts as long as his body will let him.

Check out the rest of the Fantasy Baseball content from all of the F6P writers.

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