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D-backs have future defensive asset in Ahmed

Shortstop prospect has impressed with glove, arm while developing at plate @BerniePleskoff

D-backs shortstop prospect Nick Ahmed is a much better hitter than he showed in the recently concluded Arizona Fall League.

I was able to scout Ahmed when he played shortstop for Atlanta in the 2012 AFL. Now I've seen him playing for the D-backs in the same league.

I very much believe in his talent and upside -- especially defensively. I am not anywhere close to dismissing his potential as an offensive player. Perhaps he won't be a hitting machine, but he certainly won't be an automatic out, either.

The right-handed-hitting Ahmed attended East Longmeadow High School in Springfield, Mass.

As a National Honor Society student, Ahmed earned recognition playing both basketball and baseball. He played shortstop and pitched, achieving a career 21-3 record on the mound.

Ahmed then went to the University of Connecticut where he pitched some, but gained most of his attention at shortstop. He hit .326 and stole 23 bases in 29 attempts for the Huskies. He missed some time in his junior year due to a collapsed lung.

The Braves selected Ahmed with their second-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Ahmed is No. 13 on the D-backs' Top 20 Prospects list.

Ahmed came to the D-backs in the blockbuster trade that sent outfielder Justin Upton and infielder Chris Johnson to the Braves in exchange for infielder/outfielder Martin Prado, pitcher Randall Delgado, pitcher Zeke Spruill and infielder Brandon Drury.

While in the Braves system, Ahmed was among standout Andrelton Simmons and Tyler Pastornicky as part of the team's outstanding shortstop depth.

Now with Arizona, Ahmed is in a system that has Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings, and Cliff Pennington in a true competition for playing time.

It is highly likely the logjam will sort itself out in the offseason or during Spring Training.

Offense aside, because of his stellar defense, and regardless of when the D-backs middle-infield decisions are made, Ahmed will have a role somewhere, somehow, at some point in time. He's that good.

Ahmed is a winner of a Gold Glove Award for his shortstop play this past season at Double-A Mobile.

Ahmed has now completed two full seasons, not including an abbreviated rookie year when he went to the plate 284 times in 59 games for Danville in the Appalachian Rookie League. He hit .262 with four homers and 24 RBIs. He also stole 24 bases, showing the speed he flashed while at Connecticut.

His sophomore season was spent at Class A Advanced Lynchburg where he hit .269. This time it was for 130 games and 571 at-bats. He struck out 102 times, but he scored 84 runs and stole 40 bases.

This past year, at age 23, Ahmed hit .236 at Mobile.

When I saw Ahmed play again this fall, I saw his short, compact swing. He didn't try to hammer the ball out of the park with every at-bat. Rather, he tried to make something happen to spark a rally or drive home a run. He hit .219 in the desert with one homer and six RBIs. He walked 11 times.

Due to his intensity and desire to play the game "all out" as a grinder, Ahmed is a tough out. He may not have shown the on-base percentage or the flashy batting average, but Ahmed makes pitchers work.

Still, it is his defense that will carry him to the big leagues.

Ahmed has quick feet and good range in all directions. He has soft, sure hands and a power arm from the hole at shortstop. It is evident he has used that arm to pitch in the past.

I am especially impressed by the easy manner in which Ahmed turns the double play on the receiving end of the ball. He's quick and accurate.

Polished. Nick Ahmed is polished.

Yes, I'd like to see a louder hit tool from Ahmed. I'd like to see a consistent batting average and a bit of power. However, his defense, his arm strength and accuracy along with his speed are valuable assets he brings to his club.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.

Arizona Diamondbacks