Dec 2, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2016: 23
How acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2010
Prospect Rank: No. 6 in Nats’ org. (Baseball America)
2015 Level/Team: A-Potomac, AA-Harrisburg, MLB-Nationals
2015 Stats: (minors) 106 G, 464 PA, 434 AB, 61 R, 124 H, 28 2B, 6 3B, 5 HR, 53 RBI, 30 SB, 2 CS, 20 BB, 92 SO, .286 BA, .325 OBP, .412 SLG, .738 OPS, 7 HBP / (majors) 15 G, 11 PA, 11 AB, R, 2 H, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 0 BB, 2 SO, .182 BA, .182 OBP, .182 SLG, .364 OPS, 0 HBP
2015 Analysis: After winning the 2014 South Atlantic League MVP award with the Hagerstown Suns, Wilmer Difo entered 2015 with a new status as one of the top prospects in the Nationals’ organization. Difo had emerged as a future MLB talent and helped add some much-needed middle infield depth to the Nats’ farm system.
Difo began the 2015 season with a minor promotion to High-A Potomac where he played only 19 games. There he continued to dominate the Single-A ranks with a .320 average, three homers, 14 RBI and four steals in a very brief stint. That earned him a quick bump to Double-A Harrisburg, where he would play only 14 games before getting another promotion, this time to the majors.
Difo was called up on May 19 when the Nats needed a position player to take Jayson Werth’s spot on the roster. Werth was sent to the disabled list after taking a pitch off his left hand.
Difo didn’t see much action in his first stint in the big leagues, but he did get a hit in his first MLB at-bat on the same day he was called up. That was one of only two hits Difo landed in 11 MLB plate appearances.
Difo spent most of June, July and August in Double-A before rejoining the Nationals for the rest of the season as a September call-up. He was best in the month of August when he stayed put in Double-A, holding a .325 average with 18 RBI, 16 runs and nine steals in 26 games.
2016 Outlook: Difo didn’t put up the same numbers in 2015 that he did the year before, but he was moved around a lot from level to level. Despite his dip in numbers overall, Difo remains one of the best prospects in the Nats’ organization and one who plays a position convenient for his chances of sticking in the big leagues. Difo is a solid defensive player at both shortstop and second base, which gives the Nats incentive to keep him around in 2016.
As of now, the Nationals’ infield is a crowded bunch in competition for starting positions, but Difo figures to have a good chance of cracking the Opening Day roster on their bench. He is versatile on defense and provides extra value as a switch-hitter.
Difo will next need to demonstrate that his high batting average in 2014 – and for parts of 2015 – can carry over to the major league level. If Difo can get on base in the big leagues, his plus-speed (79 combined steals in 2014-15) could be a huge asset. Difo also has some power potential, having clubbed 14 homers in 136 games in 2014.
A strong offseason could set Difo up to challenge for the starting shortstop role in spring training, but the most likely path to him making the 25-man roster is on the bench behind either Trea Turner or Danny Espinosa at shortstop and either Yunel Escobar or Anthony Rendon at second base.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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