D-backs’ Nick Ahmed confident he’ll hit better in 2016

Mar 4, 2016, 7:45 AM | Updated: 7:45 am
Arizona Diamondbacks' Nick Ahmed celebrates with teammates after scoring son a hit by Socrates Brit...
Arizona Diamondbacks' Nick Ahmed celebrates with teammates after scoring son a hit by Socrates Brito during first inning of a spring baseball game against the Colorado Rockies in Scottsdale, Ariz., Thursday, March 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
LISTEN: Nick Ahmed, D-backs' Infielder

The Arizona Diamondbacks have quite the battle going on this spring at the middle infield positions.

Regardless of who claims the starting roles at second base and shortstop, manager Chip Hale will be armed with options and flexibility.

After Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed handled the positions for most of 2015, the club went out and acquired Jean Segura in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers in February. The former All-Star has played shortstop exclusively in his big league career, and could take some time away from Ahmed, who started 116 games at the position.

In his first full Major League season, Ahmed sparkled defensively, posting a 2.8 defensive WAR stat, which was third in baseball behind only Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons and San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford.

However, Ahmed struggled at the plate during much of his rookie campaign, hitting just .140 in April.

“If I had to sum in up in one word, it would be ‘growth,'” Ahmed told Burns and Gambo Thursday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “I started out really slow, especially offensively, but I learned so much. I feel like I got better as the season went on and it was just a great learning experience.

“Took a lot of things from earlier in the year and I feel like I improved upon them and I just tried to continue to build. There were some inconsistencies in there, but me personally, I feel like I grew a lot last year.”

Ahmed did advance his offensive game. In May, the 25-year-old batted .286 and finished with a .226 batting average to go along with nine home runs and 34 RBI. Not known for his power, Ahmed had homers in back-to-back games against the Los Angeles Dodgers in late June. The whole experience gave the slick fielder the confidence to know that he can hit Major League pitching consistently.

“For sure,” he said, acknowledging he’s aware of the knocks against him. “People have doubted me my whole life and I’m not all that concerned about it. I know what I can do and you guys will see it this year.”

Ahmed is confident he won’t endure another prolonged slump like he had at the beginning of last season.

“I’m not all that worried about that — I know I’m going to hit better than (2015),” Ahmed said. “It’s not even a thought that crosses my mind. If you look at the numbers from last year, they’re lower than what I would like and I know what I’m capable of, so that’s in the past. I’ve learned a lot from it and I’m going to be much better this year.”

The Massachusetts native is also confident in his own skills in the battle with Segura for the starting spot.

“That’s how it’s been my whole life, I’m not all that worried about it,” he said. “I don’t want anything handed to me and I want to come out and earn the job and show everybody how much better I’ve gotten and that I deserve to be out there every single day. That’s what I’m going to do.”

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