Who is Nick Ahmed, you might well ask. That’s more or less the point of this. In the aftermath of the trade that sent Justin Upton to Atlanta, outlets are reporting that the Diamondbacks acquired shortstop prospect Nick Ahmed with the goal of packaging him in a trade for Tigers starter Rick Porcello. The Tigers, it has been known, have been seeking a shortstop of the future and not finding one that they liked on offer.
Ahmed was a second-round draft pick in 2011, out of college so he isn’t a relative youngster for his minor league level. He has had two minor-league seasons under his belt, with a 2012 high-A assignment relatively aggressive for his level of experience but not for his age (as is the norm for college guys). He hit adequately down there, but not all that impressively overall. His profile with the bat seems like a Tiger – hits a lot of doubles, steals a lot of bases, walks “enough” and strikes out a bit too much to give a high average. Based on his minor-league hitting thus far alone, Ahmed’s “Davenport Translations” predict that he’ll have a .665 OPS during his peak years in the majors. He’s tall (6’3) particularly for a shortstop so it’s possible that some of those doubles turn to home runs by the time he hits mid-career.
Of course, evaluating a prospect like Ahmed on his bat doesn’t paint a very accurate picture. The value that he would be expected to add would be through his legs and his glove, both of which are big pluses. His range factor last year was 5.22 per game, compared to Jhonny Peralta‘s 3.95. Getting to more than one extra ball per game is huge and he was also involved in 24 more double plays than Peralta in 2012 despite the shorter A+ season (though he did commit and would commit far more errors). Clay Davenport had him pegged at 19 runs above average last year, though advanced defensive metrics aren’t available from other sources. His best defensive asset is supposed to be a very strong arm, so it is entirely possible that his career would play out in such a way that he adds bulk (and home runs) and moves to third base down the line – where he might very well be an exceptional defender.
You can find a scouting report and some video HERE on Bleacher Report if you’re curious
Now the two questions are: should we want the Tigers to make this kind of a deal and should we figure that something is probably in the works already? To look at the second one first, it’s worth bearing in mind that this could have been done as a three-way deal but wasn’t. I’m going to guess that Dombrowski was not involved here, but that the Diamondbacks were aware of the kind of player that he wanted for Porcello. They’ll probably be starting from square one in a trade, without the framework already hashed out, but they might now actually have the pieces (and the willingness to move said pieces) to get Porcello. As for should we want him, I’d say that he is the kind of player that Dombrowski wants – he might also fall flat on his face at various levels of the minors before he ever gets to Detroit. He is a prospect. It’s also a big, big question whether – provided he ever develops to the point where you’d want him playing in the big leagues – he would be ready in 2014 when Jhonny Peralta is kicked to the curb. Ideally, the Tigers want a guy with a 2014 ETA – which would mean a relatively successful AA campaign last year.
The comparison that you probably want to make for Ahmed is Danny Worth, another second-round college shortstop with a good glove and a right handed bat. We know that Worth didn’t make a rapid push for the big leagues and we’re still not sure that he should be handed a backup role. But… Ahmed really has outperformed Worth in every way at this point in their respective careers (though Worth’s assignments were a bit more aggressive – and he was 6 months older when drafted) – he has more speed, better defensive numbers and even marginally better offensive ones as well as a frame you can project. But… pinning your hopes on a high-A guy is always going to be dangerous. He would be a good guy to have in the organization, without a doubt, but whether or not it’s a deal worth making would depend upon what else the Tigers were getting in exchange for Porcello – as a one-for-one deal it would look pretty ridiculous.