clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Looking at options to replace Nick Ahmed

New, comments

With Ahmed likely headed for the disabled list with a fractured right hand, the Diamondbacks are suddenly in need of help at shortstop.

In last night’s game, Nick Ahmed got hit on the right hand with a 99 MPH fastball. Unfortunately it left a mark, resulting in a small fracture in the right hand. Hand injuries are always tricky, especially if it’s the throwing hand. Ahmed has to wait for the bone to heal in 6-8 weeks, then go through extensive rehab for the hand and in minor league games. So he’s probably out until September at the earliest.

Ahmed’s value to the club is probably more than I initially thought because the team always had a competent defender there who could hit left-handed pitching at a solid rate and allow for the Diamondbacks to give Owings or Peralta rest days. With Ahmed likely headed for the DL, they won’t have that. The obvious short term fix is to use Ahmed’s roster spot on Reno’s shortstop Ketel Marte. Fairly simple and easy suggestion, Marte is hitting .338/.391/.514 in Reno, leading the Pacific Coast League in hits. However, I don’t think it’s the best idea for the Diamondbacks mostly because Marte won’t be able to play every day.

The problem with calling up Marte is who is he replacing in the lineup. He’s going to play every day and that’s a problem because he was replacing Ahmed, a useful bench player. If you play him in an everyday role, that bumps Owings off SS. Owings has to play somewhere, so your options are 2B and RF. The least awful option is RF because the team isn’t moving Drury off 2B any time soon and there is no reason to. So theoretically, they could move Peralta to LF and slot Owings in RF. That’s one way to accommodate the everyday guys in the lineup. Peralta would have to play against LHP considering Gregor Blanco and Rey Fuentes are also left-handed hitters. This only works while both AJ Pollock and Yasmany Tomas are still on the DL.

Since Pollock is likely coming off the DL this week and Tomas about a week later, I’m not in favor of trying that lineup. It’s pretty much a given that Tomas is not coming out of the lineup if healthy. Once he’s back, then Peralta is headed back for RF and you have a playing time issue with Owings and Marte. Owings is the better bat, so you’re either playing Marte as a part-timer or sending him back to Reno. That makes this fix a temporary fix and does nothing to solve the problem long term. You’re banking on Owings being able to stay healthy until at least September or wasting development time for Marte. Neither is a good strategy for the present and future of the club.

The other potential option is calling up Ildemaro Vargas. Obviously Vargas isn’t as good a defender as Marte since he’s the 2B when both are in the lineup, but his positional versatility might be more useful to the club. Vargas played 2B, SS, and 3B this Spring. The Diamondbacks already have a guy who can do that in Daniel Descalso, but he’s strictly a left-handed bat. There may be situations where a right-handed bat may be more useful. Vargas is a switch hitter, so he naturally has the platoon advantage anyway. From his 2015-2017 splits, Vargas has a better average and OPS against LHP. While that only replaces Ahmed’s skill set at the plate, Ahmed had a much better glove at SS, which is why calling up Vargas might be difficult because Drury isn’t coming out of the lineup and days he’s out of the lineup will have Descalso at 2B. The only time he’d be useful is as a bench player at SS and 3B against LHP. Unfortunately, that relegates Vargas to exclusively the bench and that might not be good for him.

I also considered Jack Reinheimer as an option because he’s a right-handed batter, but Reinheimer would also be relegated to a bench role. While Vargas and Reinheimer ultimately will end up as bench players most likely, there isn’t much of a reason to have them do that now when there are everyday opportunities for Reno, although this applies more to Vargas. I could care less if Reinheimer is playing a bench role since he’s already doing that in Reno. Reinheimer has seen action at 2B, 3B, and LF already for the Aces, so there is positional versatility that works for the Dbacks even though his bat lacks enough upside to be an every day player.

The Diamondbacks find themselves in a pickle not because they lack middle infielders, but rather quality middle infield depth. The Owings, Drury, Ahmed trio was working out great for the first 3 months of the season, but with Ahmed out until at least September, that depth will be tested. Personally I think Ahmed was the one guy they could least afford to lose, because he makes it possible for the Dbacks to play Owings and Drury on an everyday basis. They can still do that, but then they don’t have a backup SS on the roster. Descalso has played SS as recently as last year, but realistically Owings would have to play 5/6 games a week.

You can make an easy argument for Marte or Vargas, while Reinheimer requires a bit of mental gymnastics to justify. Given my track record this year with predicting roster moves, it will probably be my least preferred choice and that’s Marte. I’m a bit less worried about the Dbacks finding Marte ABs, although that would requires 2 positional changes to get him in the lineup. I have zero idea how this will work out for the Diamondbacks in the long run, but fortunately for us I don’t make those decisions. Mike Hazen and Torey Lovullo are paid the big bucks to figure this stuff out and ultimately they will figure out something that works because they’ve done so before.