Before the Washington Nationals acquired Yunel Escobar from Oakland, with the intention of having the veteran infielder play second base before Anthony Rendon was injured, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo talked in an MLB Network Radio interview this January about the options already in-house in the organization.
"[Danny] Espinosa is one," Rizzo said. "[Dan] Uggla is two. We've got some young kids in the minor leagues that we feel very, very good about. This [Wilmer] Difo kid, who is a speed, power, defensive guy who was obviously only in A-ball last year, but a guy that turned a lot of heads this year and a guy that we're certainly going to count on in the future, but we'll see how far along he is when he comes to big league camp for the first time."
Difo, 23, was added to the 40-Man roster this winter after an impressive 2014 campaign at Low-A Hagerstown in the Nats' system in which he posted a .315/.360/.470 line with 31 doubles, seven triples, 14 HRs, 49 stolen bases in 58 attempts, 37 walks and 65 Ks in 136 games and 610 plate appearances.
At the end of the season, Difo was ranked 7th overall as the top infielder on Baseball America's list of the Nats' Top 10 prospects.
In Spring Training, Difo put together an impressive, through brief, run, going 7 for 22 (.318/.333/.455) with a double, a triple and two runs scored before he was optioned to High-A Potomac to start the season.
Nationals' manager Matt Williams praised Difo's work in Spring Training after the infielder was optioned out of big league camp.
Williams told reporters, including Washington Times' writer Todd Dybas, that he was impressed with the work Difo did in his first Spring Training with the major leaguers:
"'I just think that he’s well on his way to being a big-leaguer," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "It’s early yet for him. Hasn’t even reached Double A yet. He can certainly hit a fastball; that’s where you start. We’ve seen him swing at some bad breaking balls, too. That’s just being young.
"'He plays both middle infield positions. Got speed. Runs the bases well. Pretty good package for him. I just think it’s a matter of him getting at-bats."
Difo put up a .320/.386/.533 line with seven doubles and three home runs in 19 games and 83 PAs with the P-Nats, and was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg where he has posted a .308/.339/.500 line in 14 games and 56 PAs.
Multiple reports his morning said the Nationals were calling the infielder up to the majors to take Jayson Werth's spot on the roster with the veteran outfielder headed the DL (retroactive to May 16th) with a left wrist contusion caused by a HBP last Friday in San Diego.
When Difo and Hagerstown teammate Lucas Giolito, the top prospect in the Nationals' system, were in Washington, D.C. to be honored last September, Difo as the recipient of the Bob Boone Award and Giolito as the Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Giolito talked up Difo when he spoke to reporters.
"Wilmer’s a thrill to watch," Giolito said. "He’s one of the most exciting players out there on the field. He gives it his all every single time. I think he’s completely deserving of the Bob Boone Award. He completely embodies everything that represents. I’m really proud of him."
Difo was asked how far he thought he could go in the organization. "Big leagues," he said. "That's the goal."
The Nationals officially called him up this afternoon: