The Atlanta Braves added another Upton to their outfield by acquiring Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks after signing his brother B.J. earlier in the offseason. One of the main prospects heading back to Arizona will be shortstop Nick Ahmed.
Source: Braves get Justin Upton and Chris Johnson from D-backs for Prado, Delgado, Ahmed and Spruill.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) January 24, 2013
While most of the focus will revolve around Upton, Prado and top pitching prospect Randall Delgado, don't overlook Ahmed. The emergence of Andrelton Simmons made him expendable for Atlanta, but he possesses plenty of potential.
Let's take a look at what Diamondbacks fans can expect from one of their newest assets. Expectations will surely be high for Ahmed after being a key piece in a trade for a rising star like Upton.
Ahmed had a successful collegiate career at Connecticut, where he was named to the All Big East Second Team in his final season. He also pitched for the Huskies, showing off the arm strength that should help him become a solid defensive shortstop.
He was drafted by the Braves in the second round of 2011 draft. The 22-year-old Massachusetts native has good size at 6'3'', 205 pounds, which puts him near the upper limit for a prototypical shortstop. A position change may be in order if he continues to grow and adds more bulk.
Marc Hulet of FanGraphs.com rated Ahmed as the No. 11 prospect in the Braves organization less than a week before the trade was made. Bill Ballew of Baseball America also didn't have him in Atlanta's top 10, but mentioned him as the team's best defensive infield prospect.
Minor League Performance
Ahmed started his minor league career in the Appalachian League in 2011. He posted a .346 on-base percentage with 18 stolen bases and four home runs in 56 games. Those are solid, albeit unspectacular numbers for a player fresh out of college.
He moved to Atlanta's high Class-A affiliate in Lynchburg for 2012, where he would spend the entire campaign. In 130 games, Ahmed hit .269 (.337 OBP) with an eye-popping 40 stolen bases. His home run total remained low with just six.
So Ahmed clearly has speed to burn, but the lack of natural power is surprising given his size. It won't be a major concern if he stays at shortstop, but if he's forced to move to a corner spot, he'll need to provide more pop.
How would you project Ahmed's future?
The Diamondbacks are not counting on Ahmed to become a superstar. That's the expectation for Delgado, who should become a stalwart member of the Arizona rotation sooner rather than later. Ahmed would be a successful trade piece if he eventually becomes the team's everyday shortstop.
He definitely has the tools to do that. Once he becomes more comfortable at the plate during his journey through the minors, his OBP should rise and that's key to go along with his speed. The power, although slow to develop, should come along too.
As it stands now, Ahmed is probably about two or three seasons away from making a serious impact at the MLB level. He's not a sure thing, but his defensive ability and speed make him a nice addition to the Arizona system, with the potential to get a lot better.