Of the top seven shortstops so far according to wRC+, just one was drafted in ten-team mixed leagues according to ESPN. That would be Jhonny Peralta who went 11th among shortstops on average. Five of the top seven, including Peralta, are primarily riding some good fortune on balls in play so far, but two guys are having success with somewhat reasonable BABIPs, Zack Cozart and Wilmer Flores.
BABIP is not the only statistic in which Cozart (.313) and Flores (.310) have been similar so far. On the positive end of things, they each have a few home runs (four for Cozart, three for Flores), and neither is striking out too much as they each have a strikeout rate in between 16 and 17 percent. They also each have a R+RBI total of 17 through Saturday’s games. On the bad end of things, neither one is drawing enough walks as the each have a walk rate under four percent.
Both will see their BABIPs decline and should see their batting average settle in the .250-.265 range, with Flores likely to be the better of the two in that department given his ability to avoid the strikeout in the minors and in his MLB debut last year. In terms of runs and RBI, Flores figures to be a bit better in those cats as well going forward because the Mets appear to have a slightly better lineup at this point. Both guys hit towards the bottom of the order, and Cozart has been there for several years. Flores is not necessarily entrenched in the bottom of the order and could hit his way up the lineup a bit, which gives him another potential advantage in the counting cats.
As far as power goes, Cozart is well on his way to bouncing back from a home run per fly ball rate of 2.5 percent last year. In the two years prior his HR/FB rate was between eight and nine percent with home run totals between 12 and 15. Projecting him to finish in that range again is more than reasonable. From here on out ZiPS has him pegged for .250 with 10 HR and 95 R+RBI.
As for Flores, optimisitc scouting reports from his prospect days projected him to potentially be a 15-18 home run guy, and ZiPS and Steamer both have him projected to hit that range this year. At 6-3, 205 he certainly has the frame for it, and with a career fly ball rate in the upper 30’s, he hits enough balls in the air to reach that mark. From now on ZiPS has him projected to hit .268 with 16 HR and 132 R+RBI. That may be a hair optimisitc, but Flores’ room for growth and upside is what makes him more attractive than Cozart, even if Cozart does get back to being what he was a couple of years ago.
Cozart has seen his ownership percentage shoot up to well over 50 percent in ESPN leagues, but Flores is still only owned in eight percent of leagues. If you were using Ben Zobrist at SS and need a replacement, or if Jose Reyes happens to hit the DL, or even if you’re ready to give up on Erick Aybar (don’t), Flores is your guy. He’s a much better option than other shortstops off to a hot start like Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis and Adeiny Hechavarria.