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Nick Ahmed’s defensive consistency will be key for Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed reaches out to field a grounder hit by Los Angeles Dodgers' Max Muncy, but is unable to get the throw to first base in time, during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — During their fan question forum as part of Saturday’s fan fest, the Diamondbacks’ Nick Ahmed, David Peralta and Jake Lamb were asked about everything from their childhood inspirations to how they can hit so many home runs.

Defense, however, was overlooked.

For Ahmed, defense is the staple of his game. A spectacular 2018 season at shortstop was rewarded with Ahmed’s first Gold Glove and the D-backs will need his defensive consistency more than ever this season.

Two Gold Glove winners — Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock — are no longer with the team. Their losses created a ripple effect and uncertainty among the defense.

Lamb will move from third base to first base. Ahmed’s double play partner from last season, Ketel Marte, shifts from second base to centerfield. Free agent signing Wilmer Flores will take over at second base.

Can the D-backs have the fourth-best fielding percentage in baseball again? Possibly, but it will start with Ahmed and the hope the rest of the defense follows his lead.

“Hitting home runs and scoring a lot of runs is fun but we have guys who love playing defense and care about it practice it and want to get better at it,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed made just nine errors in 148 games and had a career-best fielding percentage of .985 last season.

They’re numbers D-backs defenders who will be joining him in the infield haven’t come close to equaling.

Lamb played 142 and 144 games in 2016 and 2017, respectively, and made 20 and 14 errors those seasons.

Flores, who Ahmed said he hasn’t spoken with yet, hasn’t played more than 37 games at second base in any of his six seasons.

So what’s the key to Ahmed’s success and how can his teammates duplicate it?

Repetition and being healthly, according to Ahmed. Last season was just the second time in five MLB seasons Ahmed had played more than 100 games in a season.

“I feel like I’ve always been the same,” Ahmed said of his defense. “I was just able to stay healthy for a full year and do a good job.”

Within a week, Ahmed and the rest of the D-backs will stop taking questions and start taking ground balls.

Ahmed is grateful for Spring Training. It gives him and the rest of the D-backs a month and a half to work out the kinks — especially defensively — before getting judged in the regular season.

“I think that’s why we have Spring Training,” Ahmed said. “It’s six weeks long and we have plenty of time to take ground balls together and play games together. Once the season starts, we have enough chemistry to go out and play well together.”

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