- Rating: 3.80
- 2023 stats: .212/.257/.303 (.560 OPS)
- Date of birth: May 15, 1990
- 2023 earnings: $10,375,000
- 2024 status: Free Agent
As someone known to be a staunch Nick Ahmed supporter over the years, it’s a bit tough to see all those votes for a 2, but it isn’t like the final season of Nick Ahmed’s tenure in the dessert was anything to brag about. In fact, it was the worst season of his career. Even Ahmed’s once brain-melting displays of glovework were only merely great plays this season.
9 years ago today I got to make my MLB debut and fulfill a childhood dream! A lot has changed since then including 3 kids and lots of ups and downs but I am still going thanks to God, my incredible wife and so many other family members, friends, coaches and teammates! pic.twitter.com/gEL94NusB7— Nick Ahmed (@NickAhmed13) June 30, 2023
Nick Ahmed was the longest-tenured member of the team. He is the only player in team history to appear for the team in 10 different seasons. But even his savvy glovework and his long-standing relationship with the club were not enough to spare him from a rather ignominious end to his time in Phoenix.
Ahmed entered the 2023 season having returned from missing the 2022 season to injury and surgery. The result of his long absence and diminishing bat was that, for the first time since he took over the starting duties in 2015, Ahmed entered the season in a planned platoon. The result was that Ahmed played in only about half the games he was healthy for. By the end of April, he made appearances in 18 games. At that time, his bat was still somewhat holding up, at least on the battering average side of things. But the overall numbers were still worrisome. Despite a .255 batting average, his OBP was an atrocious .268. Plain and simple, Ahmed’s plate discipline had fallen to pieces. Walks were no longer coming as pitchers approached a Nick Ahmed at-bat with no fear of grooving one when a strike was needed. In reply, Ahmed’s strikeout rate rose to a career high (saving the 27% rate he posted in a handful of at-bats before injury ended his season in 2022). What’s more, Ahmed’s sneaky power and overall good numbers against left-handed pitching seemed to evaporate as well. Thus, Ahmed’s path to playing time shrunk even more, with the switch-hitting Geraldo Perdomo taking more and more at-bats from Ahmed over the course of the season.
With so little to choose from, and with such little output, it is tough to pick out a “best game” for Ahmed in 2023. However, one of his more memorable performances was likely his team-up with Alek Thomas on April 23rd, when the two went back-to-back against the Padres.
In terms of what was statistically his most meaningful game, Ahmed’s 2-run homer on June 10th was enough to give him a WPA of .182. And, since the Diamondbacks went to the World Series in 2023, a quick look at cWPA seems appropriate. Alas, that same performance ranks as his top output of the season, coming in at .13%
On the season, Ahmed appeared in 72 games for the Diamondbacks. He only started in 56 of them. OF those, he only made it to the ninth inning in 44 outings. That pretty much says all that needs to be said about Ahmed’s fall from grace.
Despite his substantially reduced playing time and the eyeball test confirming the reports that Nick Ahmed had lost a bit of his defensive prowess, Ahmed was still worth .4 WAR with his glove alone, turning 26 double plays and earning a full defensive run saved according to Baseball-Reference. The people over at Fangraphs liked his glove even more.
While it has been two years now since we needed a separate category for Slick Nick in the best defensive plays of the year, Ahmed’s defensive decline has not stripped him of the ability to make good plays. He’s still an above average, bordering on elite glove. But the mileage is starting to show.
In August, Arizona’s top prospect, Jordan Lawlar decided to tear the minor leagues to pieces. His hot bat, combined with Ahmed’s anemic one and the team’s desperate struggle to remain in the playoff hunt, resulted in the team taking the surprising action of designating Ahmed for assignment to make roster space for the young prospect. What made the move even more surprising was the timing, right after the September 1st roster cutoff. That Arizona went on to reach the World Series while Nick Ahmed sat at home had to burn somewhat, especially after things did not work out so well for Lawlar during the call-up. But, at the same time, Ahmed’s on-field performance and the team’s driving need made the move somewhat inevitable.
A few days later, Nick Ahmed was announced as the team’s nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. Oops.
2024 and Beyond
Nick Ahmed is a free agent. It’s safe to say that, despite Lawlar’s not-inconsiderable struggles at the MLB level last year, that Ahmed will still not be returning to help bridge the gap to Jordan Lawlar’s full-time arrival. It appears that that particular job will fall squarely on the shoulders of Geraldo Perdomo. Given the lack of bat in Ahmed’s arsenal, it is not surprising that there has not been much winter chatter about any team adding him to their roster. That said, if Ahmed wants to keep playing, his glove is still good enough and his veteran savvy is still valuable enough, that he will land a late-winter deal somewhere. There have already been rumblings that the White Sox could be interested in adding him. IT’s also possible that, being a business owner and devoted family man, that Nick Ahmed may simply hang them up for a bit, though it seems likely that he will be a coach for a Major League team somewhere down the road.
The end may have been ugly and clumsy, but Nick Ahmed goes down as the best shortstop to ever suit up for the Diamondbacks. At his peak, he was one of the best shortstops in all of baseball. His defensive wizardry is something most of us will never see the likes of again. His glove transfer was so fast and smooth it was often tough to see it. Over the 9+ years of his MLB career (all spent in Arizona) Nick Ahmed’s highlight reel has extended to the length of a short film. Though Jordan Lawlar still promises to bring excitement for the team moving forward, Nick Ahmed’s dogged play style and amazing glovework will indeed be missed.