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Countdown to Arizona Diamondbacks Opening Day: D-21, Nick Ahmed

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Our defensive wiz is trying to battle back from a hip injury that caused major problems for him in 2016.

MLB: Spring Training-Oakland Athletics at Arizona Diamondbacks Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

We asked you to rank the 40-man roster along with the 16 non-roster invitees to spring training, and every day between now and the eve of Opening Day, we’ll have a profile of one of those Diamondbacks.

D minus 21: Nick Ahmed

  • Date of birth: March 15, 1990
  • Ht/Wt: 6’2”, 195 lbs
  • Position: Infielder
  • Status: 40-man roster
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • 2016 MLB numbers: 90 games, 308 PA, .218/.265/.299, 4 HR, 20 RBI
  • SnakePit Rating: 5.17 [pattern of votes below]

Ahmed would be the first to tell you that 2016 was not what he wanted. After having been worth 2.5 bWAR the previous year, his OPS dropped 70 points, effectively below the line where his defensive skills could balance it out. Over 90 games, Ahmed was worth only 0.2 bWAR. But how much of it was due to a steadily worsening hip? He tried cortisone shots, but when those proved ineffective, he opted for microfracture surgery and labrum repair on the joint in August - always a risky proposition, but especially at a position like shortstop, which requires as quick a first step as possible.

However, the indications so far appear to be that after a five-month rehab process, he is back to his old self. Said infield coach Tony Perezchica, “I see really no difference. He’s moving around well. He’s real active in all our drill work. During the games, when I see his first step in any direction, it still looks as quick as what I’ve seen in the past. It’s a good sign.” He is engaged this spring in a three-way fight for the starting shortstop’s job, with Chris Owings and Ketel Marte. Owings is probably the favorite, but so far, playing time has been almost evenly divided (Owings + Ahmed = 29 PA each, Marte = 24 PA, through Saturday). Lovullo is watching how it plays out:

“I want to see guys playing full speed, grasping our concepts, taking a leadership role, being the captain of the infield, understanding that they go out there and play fearless baseball, without worry about making mistakes. And all three guys have been doing that. All three guys have been outstanding, it’s been a great competition for all of us to watch. It’s just one haymaker after the other, they’re all landing shots, having good at-bats.”

If I’d to guess, Ahmed will make the roster, but (given perfect health) will see more work as a late-inning defensive replacement than a starter. He does have significant career splits, hitting left-handed pitching much better, so could end up on that end of a pseudo-platoon (both men being right-handed) with Owings, whose splits are close to identical.

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