D-backs SS Nick Ahmed confident team can contend in NL West

Feb 11, 2021, 4:11 PM | Updated: 6:40 pm
(AP Photo/Matt York)...
(AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

Count Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed as a believer in the team’s chances in a stacked National League West division race.

Ahmed, appearing on Arizona Sports’ Ain’t No Fang podcast on Thursday, said the D-backs have enough depth and talent to keep up with the Dodgers and Padres.

There’s been much adieu this offseason about both teams, with the former signing 2020 NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer in free agency and trading for Cubs flamethrower Yu Darvish; the latter trading for 2018 AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell and Pirates right-handed pitcher Joe Musgrove.

Ahmed countered that he and the D-backs players don’t see either team as a runaway favorite to win the division.

The veteran shortstop said the 2021 D-backs roster has the type of depth and youthful energy to compete and keep their divisional rivals at-bay.

“Obviously, they’re good players, but we have a bunch of good players on our team. And we just kind of feel like we underperformed as a team last year and as a group we didn’t put things together.

“And we know that if we do that, we’re going to win enough to make a run and make the playoffs, and we’ll see what happens after that.”

The eighth-year shortstop discussed his experience facing off against the likes of Snell and Dodgers’ longtime ace Clayton Kershaw.

When asked who the toughest pitcher to face in the division, Ahmed responded by bringing up his run-ins with Kershaw and fellow Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler.

“Obviously I’ve faced Kershaw and Buehler a bunch of times and you have to give those guys credit where credit’s due. Those guys are good and know what they’re doing out on the mound,” he said.

“But I would maybe say that Kershaw I guess, just from his track record and the success that he’s had over a long period of time.”

Kershaw certainly has gotten the better of Ahmed and many of his NL West brethren over the years.

The southpaw has held Ahmed to five hits in 29 career at-bats, with no home runs and two RBIs for the D-backs shortstop.

Of all pitchers that Ahmed’s faced at least 10 times in his career, his batting average against Kershaw (.172) is fifth-lowest, which backs up his pick.

As for the team’s mantra or calling card in 2021, Ahmed focused on the team’s ability to switch up their lineup and pitching staff, which speaks highly of the organization’s depth in the shortstop’s opinion.

“We may not have the superstar names like Kershaw and some of the other names and players from around the league that some other teams may have, but we have depth and a good group of guys,” Ahmed said.

“So we’re not going to go out there and have the highest payroll and have the biggest stars on our team. But we’re still going to have a chance at competing every single night.”

For now, Ahmed said the team’s goal is to do whatever it takes to get the D-backs into postseason contention in 2021, regardless of who they face from the likes of the Dodgers and Padres.

“The opportunity and the goal is just to win one baseball game,” he said. “And we can do that 90 times throughout the year, there’s no reason that we can’t do that.

“So that’s our goal and that’s what we’re going to set out to do this year.”

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