"It's no coincidence the now legendary Fantasy L.I.M.A. (Low Investment Mound Aces, named by Ron Shandler) strategy was derived from Jose Lima, who broke through at 21-10 with 187 strikeouts and a 3.58 ERA in 1999. He entered that year with 54 big-league starts under his belt. (The L.I.M.A. strategy suggests you pick starters on the cheap because breakouts can come from the depths of the position)"
Basically, the idea is, besides certain established stud, Starting pitching outcomes are too hard to predict and your better looking for middle of the road (so far pitchers) later in the draft who are entering their third year or so. And there are always guys who emerge who weren't even drafted.
In terms of payoff, you're more likely to get a good return on investment from hitters than pitchers, so spend the early round on hitting primarily, and then grab a bumch of middle of the road starters.
I think it's basically a strategy born from weaknesses though. In one off leagues where you don't have keepers, it probably works a lot, but in keeper leagues, Having a core dominate pitchers or finding the next up-and-coming group of dominant pitchers is essential.
The more you know about pitching though, the better you can usually get at separating the wheat from the chaffe. Every year hot young pitchers show up on the scene and do very well, but most go south after a while. Then some, years later will actually become stars once they've adjusted to the adjustments the league made to them.
Personally, what I look for are pitchers who don't walk a lot, work mainly off a good to great fastball, but they can change speed and have a plus third pitch. Throwing strikes is big though. walks are killers. I've found that the best way to spot breakout pitchers is to start with guys who are already doing well in Ks, but their walks/per innings and home runs per inning start dipping noticeable. ERA and WHIP can be decieving because luck and the quality of the defense matters a lot. But trends that show fewer and fewer walks and HRs per inning tells me they're learning how to pitch and aren't just relying on throwing anymore.
And then sometimes you go off your gut, the first time I saw Carlos Zambrano and (Mets' fans don't look) Scott Kazmir pitch, I grabbed them immediately and they've been keepers ever since.
First time seeing Zambrano, I liked the movement on his fastball and breaking stuff and he had a fearless aggresson to him that most young pitchers don't have. I also thought he showed signs of having a rubber arm. He was throwing gas no matter what, he just got wilder when he got tired. I thought, "man if this guy cuts down the walks, he'll be a monster."... Now I'm thinking... "If the cubs can just score some runs and the bullpen holds" because he is a monster.
First time seeing Kazmir, It was like seeing Ron Guidry back out on the mound. I thought his velocity was coming not just from his arm, but from perfect mechanics, and I knew as soon as he could locate better, which I expected to be soon because his mechanics were so consistant, I knew he'd be a top tier Johanne Santana type guy with an under 3 ERA and 200 plus Ks.
This year three guys stand out above all the others Liriano, Jered Weaver and King Felix.
Liriano looks like Minnesota has secretly cloned Santana.
King Felix stat's don't look so hot at frirst glance, but his age and his ability to locate all his (very good) pitches impresses me. To me, all he needs is more physical stamina, which will come. I also get the sense that the Mariners are forcibly not letting him unleash his best stuff very much. It's almost like he's still in the minors, and they're saying, "we know you can get these guys with wicked sliders, but we just want you to work on locating your fastball and change up this outing."
As for Weaver, although their mechanics are nothing alike, to me his pitches remind me of Maddux in his prime. Mutliple types of fastballs at varios speeds and movements hitting the edges of the strike zone, the occassional freezing curve, the major difference is, Weaver can also go up and in with a plus fastball. He's got such a variation of speeds and movements, that as a hitter, I wouldn't know what to look for. I think the only strategy is to wait and try and slap single something.
Actually, picking cheap starters is not the full LIMA strategy. The LIMA strategy also focuses on picking up excellent middle relievers, rather than starters. When you add up their stats, a collection of middle relievers oftens adds up to a Mound Ace, and they can often be cheap, so the Low Investment.