The belief that Nick Ahmed's defense is enough to keep him in the line-up everyday is being sorely tested by his long, ongoing slump. He is now teetering perilously close to being replacement level: Baseball Reference has him at 0.1 WAR, while Fangraphs rates him at -0.1 WAR. In both case, it's all about his offensive indifference. His offense grades at -11.1 on Fangraphs, or -0.8 oWAR on Baseball Reference. For Ahmed is now batting .175 for the season - and that's after a hot start, which saw Nick hit .300 over the first dozen games, with three HR and an OPS of .924. Since then? In just short of 100 PA, he has hit .116 with a .329 OPS. It has to be among the worst months, offensively, in D-backs history.
Indeed, it's shaping up to be the worst season, and it's not even close. The only three Diamondbacks' qualifying hitters with an OPS+ below 70 since the franchise began, were: Alex Cintron (68 in 2004), Tony Womack (64 in 2001) and Chris Owings (58 in 2015). Nick Ahmed's OPS+ in 2016? 35. That would be the lowest figure posted in the major leagues since Ray Berres was at 32 for Boston and Pittsburgh in 1940. [Though, amusingly - in a rasping, derisive snort kind of laugh - Ahmed isn't the worst hitter in the majors this season. That dubious honor belongs to Erick Aybar, who has managed to bat .187 with no home-runs, for an OPS+ of just n-n-n-n-nineteen]
Now, as mentioned, Ahmed's glove remains slump-proof, and that means he is likely not a net loss to the team. There are certainly bigger problems for Arizona this year, like the extraordinary inability of their pitchers to work at home. But the balance has likely shifted a bit toward Chris Owings. Last year, Ahmed was clearly the better player than Owings, by about three wins regardless of whether you use fWAR (1.7 to -1.4) or bWAR (2.5 to -0.7). But this season, the reverse is true. One-quarter of the way through the season, Owings is clearly ahead, by as much as 1.3 wins using bWAR (1.4 to 0.1), where he has currently been our most valuable player.
CO is hitting 57 points better than 2015, with an OPS up by 137 points. Is that sustainable? Some may be: his walk-rate is up, almost to major-league average, and Owings's strikeout rate is also significantly down, to 18.9% compared to last year's figure of 26.1%. A BABIP of .359 is certainly on the high side, but Owings does have as good speed as almost anyone on the team, and that would naturally play into a higher than average figure for the stat. But even if this were to drop, he still seems a significantly better option at the plate than Ahmed. With the arrival of Michael Bourn for center-field, we may see Owings return to shortstop, and Ahmed largely relegated to a late-inning defensive replacement.