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Fantasy Baseball Quality Starts Leagues Draft Primer (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Quality Starts Leagues Draft Primer (2024)

A quality start or “QS” is a statistic that gets recorded when a starting pitcher lasts six innings or more while allowing three runs or less in a game. Forty years ago, throwing six innings or more was hardly noteworthy, but in today’s analytical game lasting through the sixth is something to be celebrated.

The favorable part about quality starts is that pitchers are more in control of whether they obtain one. If you pitch well and are economical, you’re likely to qualify. Unlike the more popular wins category, a quality start is based more on a pitcher’s performance than how the team performs as a whole. While pitchers are mostly in control of their ability to obtain quality starts, wins are almost completely out of their control. Yes, pitchers need to perform well to keep their team in the game, but if their offense isn’t scoring runs, a win is likely out of reach.

That is why many fantasy leagues have moved on from the classic “win” and are now incorporating quality starts instead. It measures a pitcher’s performance better than wins do, which, most of the time, just comes down to dumb luck. Some leagues carry both categories, but whatever type you play in, if quality starts are included, then you’re going to want to target these next four players.

Quality Starts Leagues Primer (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

Factors & Considerations

There are a few factors to consider when searching for quality starts other than simply drafting the best pitchers. While they do often go hand-in-hand, other tangibles should be kept in mind.

For instance, what style of manager or team do they play for? Some squads rely heavily on their bullpens, while others don’t. Something else to consider is that many of the league’s older managers tend to let their pitchers throw a bit deeper.

Veteran pitchers are also more likely to be kept on the bump beyond the sixth inning. On the contrary, the majority of the young arms are often put on an innings limit or low pitch count to help preserve them. Also, if a player has just returned from injury, teams are less likely to allow them to pitch as deep into games as they normally would.

With all those elements understood, here are four examples of undervalued starting pitchers you should target in quality starts leagues.

Logan Webb (SP – SF) | ADP: 60

Logan Webb is a forgotten star among the elite because he doesn’t strike out a ton of batters. He also often pitches after most of the country has gone to bed. This is good news for you because he’s currently slipped to the seventh round (in Yahoo! leagues), where he’s an absolute steal. Considering he was tied for the lead last year with 24 quality starts, Webb is someone you should be targeting in the fifth round. He’s been nothing but consistent over the last three seasons, annually recording an ERA below 3.25.

Last year, with the introduction of the shift ban, some analytics pointed towards a potential decline, but Webb actually improved. His 1.07 WHIP was the lowest of his career, and his walk rate plummeted down to a minuscule 1.29/9. Even if the Giants ace remains steady at his modest strikeout rate, the fact that he throws so many innings means he will still get you a sizable amount of Ks (he registered 194 over 216 innings last year).

With Gabe Kapler out as manager, there could be some hesitation as to whether Webb will be allowed to pitch as deep. However, Bob Melvin, San Francisco’s new manager, is old school, and I fully expect the trend to continue. Draft Webb near the end of the fifth round in quality starts leagues and focus your first four picks on offensive weapons.

Eduardo Rodriguez (SP – ARI) | ADP: 192

Eduardo Rodriguez has had his ups and downs throughout his career. He had a few rough patches in Boston and struggled to stay healthy in Detroit. But now, back at full strength, he not only gets to play in a much warmer climate but also has one of the best defenses behind him. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s joining the National League champs for those also in search of wins.

Arizona’s manager, Torey Lovullo, is known for letting his starters go deep. Zack Gallen was fifth in MLB in quality starts last year, while Merrill Kelly was 14th. As long as his pitchers aren’t tanking, Lovullo allows them to pitch through their minor struggles. Even late in the year, he allowed the team’s top young arm, Brandon Pfaadt, to pitch late into games.

Rodriguez’s numbers fit in nicely with the other two aces on the staff. The lefty finished with a 3.30 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 14 quality starts over 26 games. Those numbers fall somewhere in between Gallen and Kelly. As long as he’s feeling healthy to start the year, expect more of the same, if not better, out of the 30-year-old Rodriguez. Going in the 190s, “Erod” is extremely valuable.

Marcus Stroman (SP – NYY) | ADP: 252

Marcus Stroman will attract more attention now that he’s in New York, but the ground ball specialist should be in a great position to thrive. While the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium aren’t great for fly ball pitchers, Stroman was fourth in the league last year in fly ball-to-ground ball ratio. The 10-year veteran has always welcomed the bright lights, and my instinct tells me he will love playing for the Yankees.

Stroman finished with 15 quality starts last year, and while that’s not Webb territory, you can get him over 200 picks later in the draft. He also only started 25 games, giving him a solid 60% quality start ratio per start. He regularly keeps his ERA below 4.00, and his WHIP should hover around 1.20. He deserves a bit more attention in quality starts leagues and can be moved up to the earlier 200s.

Kyle Gibson (SP – STL) | ADP: 403

Kyle Gibson possesses some nice value in quality starts leagues. He’s an innings eater who rarely misses a start and pitches deep into games. The 36-year-old offers a six-pitch mix that he keeps in the strike zone and off the barrel of the bat. He’s averaged around one home run with less than three walks per nine over the last three years. Gibson remains a contact pitcher, but as long as he’s keeping his ground ball percentage near 50%, he should do fine.

If you can play the matchups and avoid or limit the blowup games, you could easily score 15 quality starts with an ERA close to or below 4. His analytics definitely say he’s capable, with an FIP and xFIP hovering near or below 4.00 in each of the last three years (542.2 innings). He’s not an exciting pick, but at the end of drafts, he could shore up your staff and earn you plenty of QSs.

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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.

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