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Nationals promote prospect Wilmer Difo to majors

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Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals placed veteran Jayson Werth on the disabled list yesterday. His replacement on the roster is infielder Wilmer Difo, promoted from Double-A Harrisburg in the Eastern League.

Wilmer Difo sounds like a good name for a Jedi Knight. In our reality Difo was an obscure minor leaguer a year ago, but his 2014 season was excellent and he's maintained the momentum thus far in 2015.

Difo was signed by the Nationals as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He had a difficult 2013 season, hitting a combined .217/.296/.345 for four teams in the Nationals system. At one point he got buried emotionally and was sent back to rookie ball to restore his confidence.

He shook out of the torpor in 2014 and hit an excellent .315/.360/.470 with 14 homers, 49 steals, 37 walks, and 65 strikeouts in 559 at-bats for Low-A Hagerstown in the South Atlantic League. His combination of speed, power, and defense earned him the Sally League MVP award. He opened 2015 with High-A Potomac in the Carolina League but didn't stay long, hitting .320/.386/.533 in 19 games. Promoted to Double-A Harrisburg two weeks ago, he's remained hot with a .308/.339/.500 line.

Difo is a 6-0, 195 pound switch-hitter, born April 2, 1992. A contact hitter, he's gained strength with physical maturity and has done a much better job driving the ball over the last 14 months. His speed is above average and he uses it very well on the bases, stealing 124 bases in his minor league career while being caught 34 times for a 78% success percentage. Although he is somewhat aggressive and doesn't draw tons of walks, he makes contact readily and is expected to hit for average.

Difo has split his career between second base and shortstop. His physical tools are OK for short; he's competent there, but at second base he could be well above average. He was seen as a potential utility player before his 2014 breakout but right now it looks like he could hit enough to be a starter.

This promotion looks like a temporary deal and barring unforeseen circumstances he will likely return to Double-A fairly soon. Difo is more of a long-term guy for 2016 and beyond, but he's come a long way in a short time and his broad base of tools and skills is highly intriguing.