Breaking: The SF Giants might just have a shortstop alternative to Marco Luciano after all

Nick Ahmed made his spring debut with the SF Giants on March 1st and followed with a home run and quality shortstop defense. The better he plays during the spring, the better his chances are of making a magical impact.

Nick Ahmed is an interesting, old-school case of thinking. Similar to Édgar Rentería during the 2010 season in which he flashed that postseason magic that he did earlier in his career. There was a certain amount of fairy dust on that 2010 team. The kind of fairy dust that took old, crusty, work down veterans and propelled them to heights they hadn’t seen in years and would never see again. Renteria was a prime example of that.

The SF Giants might just have a shortstop alternative to Marco Luciano  after all

Rentería arrived in SF as a free agent after signing a two-year $18.5 million deal after the 2008 off-season. The 2009 season was a disaster. Rentería managed 510 plate appearances across 124 games but finished with an abysmal 68 wRC+ (100 is avg) and -0.1 WAR on the season, so expectations were extremely low, especially when you consider the fact that Rentería was entering his age-32 season and had not been an above-average bat since 2007.

The 2010 season was a surprising revival for the aging veteran. Rentería managed only 72 games and 267 plate appearances but managed a 94 wRC+ and 1.2 WAR, both of which were the highest he managed since 2007. He carried that momentum into the postseason where he managed a 116 wRC+, played a quality shortstop, and won the World Series MVP.

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Following the 2010 season, the veteran infield departed via free agency and signed with the Cincinnati Reds where his production immediately dropped. He managed an 80 wRC+ and the defense fell off a bit as he played in 96 games. The Reds would fail to make the playoffs and that would represent the final time Rentería would take the field during the season.

Similar to Rentería, Nick Ahmed is arriving as a free agent but this time on a minor league deal with little-to-no risk. Ahmed managed only a 51 wRC+ across 210 plate appearances with a 0.0 WAR before being released by the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. However, he has a track record for excellent defense and has performed better than his 2023 numbers would suggest.

Between 2018 and 2020 Ahmed managed at least an 85 wRC+ with season WARs of 3.7, 3.3, and 1.6. In 2021, Ahmed struggled with the bat, managing only a 66 wRC+ but played so well at shortstop that he still managed a 1.4 WAR. Ahmed spent the majority of 2022 out with injury before returning in 2023. However, there is reason to believe in some possible magic.

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Every projection system listed on Fangraphs believes that Ahmed will manage a 70+ wRC+. The last time Ahmed was able to play 50 or more games with a wRC+ of 70 or higher he managed a 1.6 WAR.

The projections do expect a downtick in his defense which would be expected with Ahmed entering his age-34 season. That said, Ahmed was still in the 90th percentile in Outs Above Average at shortstop last year and has never dropped below that meaning we can expect near-elite defense at shortstop with a small bounce back from the bat.

There is magic to be had here. Ahmed is already projected for an offensive improvement from last season and he maintains his defensive prowess at SS. If you squint, there are shades of late-career
Rentería and if there is even a modicum of a chance that he can represent what Rentería meant to that 2010 team then the choice is clear. Ahmed has arrived, like a snake shedding his skin. Now it is time to see if he can channel the

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