Speedster Ahmed putting it all together in AFL
Braves expecting big things from shortstop prospect after strong season in Class A
PHOENIX -- There he goes again.
That had to be a thought frequently crossing the minds of the opposition when Nick Ahmed was well on his way to another stolen base for Class A Lynchburg.
The speedy shortstop, a second-round selection (85th overall) of the Braves in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, began putting together more parts of his game this season, highlighted by his 40 stolen bases in 50 attempts. He hit .269 in 130 games, with 36 doubles and 49 RBIs.
Ahmed, who plays for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League and was selected for the recent Rising Stars Game, was hitting .296 with four stolen bases, nine RBIs, three doubles and one home run midway through the Fall League's fifth week.
He builds his game around his speed and takes advantage of it at every opportunity.
"God blessed me with the ability to run, and I try to work on it in the offseason," said Ahmed, ranked by MLB.com as the Braves' No. 10 prospect. "I work to improve on my jump and really getting a good first step. It helps both ways -- offensive and defense, on the basepaths, and in the field on defense. So any way I can utilize that to help my team is what I'm going to try to do."
Like all good basestealers, Ahmed knows speed is only a fraction of what it takes to steal bases consistently.
"At this level, with guys who can catch and throw, and pitchers who do a good job getting the ball to the plate quickly and holding, you really got to do a good job paying attention to pitchers' tendencies," Ahmed said. "Maybe picking up on something they have in their move, be able to get there that split-second quicker, so a lot of paying attention, a lot of watching, and a lot of learning to do."
Aaron Holbert, who is the manager of the Double-A Mississippi Braves, guides the Desert Dogs in the Fall League, and he's familiar with Ahmed.
"He had a very successful year at Lynchburg, stole a lot of bases, hit for average, played a great shortstop, so I [and] the organization are looking for bigger and better things from him," Holbert said.
"We know he can run, play a great shortstop, and with his offensive abilities he also has some power in his bat, so I see him as a complete player. If he continues what he's doing, there's no doubt about it ... he will find a place in the Major Leagues somewhere."
Ahmed worked in the offseason to improve his swing, and he says that helped him a lot in his doubles output. Power will not be his eventual calling card, so he's not pressing the issue.
"I'm not worried about hitting home runs at this stage," Ahmed said. "I'm just trying to hit the ball in the gap, hit doubles, and if I hit home runs, I hit home runs. As my career goes on, I'm going to learn certain spots when I can take that chance and try to drive the ball out of the ballpark."
The season he spent at Lynchburg gave his career a boost, Ahmed said, and he wants to take what he learned to the next level. His mindset at shortstop boils down to: "Let's see if you can hit one by me."
"I feel like I can make all the plays at short," Ahmed said. "It's just about being consistent now, keeping my feet in a good position to make all the plays, and just being under control, because if you're out of control, that's when the game speeds up on you.
"I think you've got to be able to make all the plays. You've got to be able to go left, right, in, out. You've got to be a little bit of a leader out there for your team, so I take pride in that and try to be a leader for my teams out there."
Braves hitters in the Fall League
Matt Kennelly is a non-drafted Australian-born catcher who joined the organization in 2007. He spent the 2012 season with Double-A Mississippi, where he appeared in 62 games and hit .254. Kennelly has appeared in three Fall League games and was hitting .111 through Thursday. In Australian ball, he helped his Perth team win back-to-back titles in 2011-12. Brothers Tom (Phillies), Sam (Pirates) and Josh (Reds) also play professionally.
Edward Salcedo, a third baseman who was not drafted, played a full season at Lynchburg this season. He hit .240 with 26 doubles, 17 home runs and 61 RBIs and added to his value by stealing 23 bases. Salcedo was hitting .136 through 17 games with the Desert Dogs.
Braves pitchers in the Fall League
Ryan Buchter has thrown well in the Fall League. In his first eight games (11 2/3 innings), he has 10 strikeouts, a 1-0 record and a 2.31 ERA. Buchter had a rough debut in Triple-A this season after a promotion, saddled with a 10.12 ERA over nine games. The 6-foot-4 left-handed reliever was a 33rd-round selection (984th overall) in 2005.
Chris Jones, selected by the Indians in the compensation A round (49th overall) in the 2009 Draft, was traded to the Braves in the 2011 deal for Derek Lowe. The lefty was 2-5 with a 3.90 ERA in Double-A this season; in his 45 relief appearances, he picked up two saves and struck out 61 in 60 innings. In the Fall League, Jones had pitched 12 2/3 innings with a 4.97 ERA as Week 5 began.
Cory Rasmus was tabbed by the Braves in the compensatory round (38th overall) in the 2006 Draft. He has bounced between starter and reliever in his Minor League career, and this season came out of the bullpen 50 times for Double-A Mississippi to record seven saves. Rasmus struck out 62 in 58 2/3 innings. He has been tagged for three home runs in his first 10 1/3 innings of work in the Fall League, with an ERA of 9.58.
Zeke Spruill was a second-round (70th overall) pick in the 2008 Draft. In five Minor League seasons, the 6-foot-5 right-hander has been used mainly as a starter. He was 9-11 with a 3.67 ERA in Double-A in 2012. In his first five Fall League starts, Spruill was 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA.
Jim Gintonio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.