WILMER DIFO, SHORTSTOP
|Born: April 2, 1992
Signed: Int’l Free Agent, 2010 (Washington Nationals)
How Acquired: Minor League Free Agent
Country: Dominican Republic
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Difo wasn’t a major signing out of the Dominican. For a while in the low minors, he looked like an organizational player, but he had a breakout season in low A in 2014 that got him on the prospect map. His hitting fell off again, particularly his patience and power, when he got to the upper minors. He spent all or parts of six years in the majors with Washington, mainly as a utility infielder. He had outstanding speed when he reached the majors and had a track record of being a strong base stealer in the minors. In more recent years, he’s slowed down a little and his speed is just good now. He has good range and has generally been a little above average defensively. The Pirates signed him to a minor league deal for 2021.
Difo played short in his debut. He didn’t hit much, beyond showing decent plate discipline.
The Nationals sent Difo back to the DSL, then promoted him to rookie ball in mid-July. Overall, he improved a good deal at the plate. He walked more than he struck out and stole a lot of bases. He played short nearly all the time.
Difo went back to rookie ball again. He didn’t hit as well, showing little power, although he drew a lot of walks.
Difo started the season in high A, but after six games gradually moved down through four levels. He played second, third and short, and didn’t hit much at any level.
The Nationals kept Difo at low A all year and he made great progress at the plate, including solid power. He also finished second in the league in steals. He split his time evenly between short and second. After the season, Baseball America ranked him seventh among the Nats’ prospects and the team added him to the 40-man roster after the season.
Difo went to high A and continued hitting well, earning a promotion at the end of April. He hit just decently in AA and his patience fell off sharply. The Nats called him up four separate times for brief stints. They used him mainly at short in the minors. BA rated him sixth in the system.
Difo spent most of the season in AA. He got called up for a month in late July and also got a September callup. He played mostly short in the minors and served as a utility player in the majors. BA rated him fourth in the system, which seems high for a player who projects as a utility player.
The Nats kept Difo in the majors most of the season. With Trea Turner hurt, Difo played short for a large part of the summer. He hit respectably, mainly because he pummeled LHPs for an .848 OPS. He had only a .637 OPS against RHPs.
Difo spent the entire season in the majors. With Daniel Murphy hurt, he played regularly at second for much of the year. His hitting fell off a good deal.
Difo started the season in the majors, but got sent to AAA in mid-May. He was hurt for a month, starting in mid-July, then made his way back to AAA and got a September callup. He hit mostly the same as the previous year, with even less power. When he was in the majors, the Nats used him as a utility infielder.
Difo saw very limited playing time with the Nats through early September. At that point, they removed him from the 40-man roster.
The Pirates called Difo up several days into the season when Ke’Bryan Hayes went on the injured list. He didn’t hit a lot, but did hit much better then Erik Gonzalez. The Pirates, though, remained completely obsessed with Gonzalez, so when they needed a roster spot to reactivate Phillip Evans, they designated Difo for assignment. They called him back up in early July when they had several injuries. They finally gave up on Gonzalez and stuck with Difo the rest of the year. He ended up with his best offensive season, posting an OPS+ of 94. Difo was outstanding as a pinch hitter, batting .286 and finishing tied for first in the majors with pinch hits (16), including three home runs. On defense he played all over, but most often at second or third, and in the outfield. He also pitched twice. Difo played well at second and short, but badly in the outfield, which has been a consistent pattern with the Pirates’ obsessive use of infielders in the outfield.
Difo is eligible for salary arbitration. The Pirates shouldn’t get carried away with his career-best season. They’ve loaded up with upper-level prospects who profile as utility infielders. It’d make no sense for them to use a roster spot on a veteran utility player with a mostly weak record as a hitter.
UPDATE: The Pirates outrighted Difo to AAA after the World Series. He’ll likely become a free agent.
|2021: Minor League Contract ($1,000,000 if in majors)
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2010
MLB Debut: 5/19/2015
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2024
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/2013
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2015, 2016, 2019)
MLB Service Time: 4.137
|June 3, 2010: Signed by the Washington Nationals as an international free agent.
November 20, 2014: Contract purchased by the Washington Nationals.
September 5, 2020: Designated for assignment by the Washington Nationals; outrighted to training facility on September 7.
October 13, 2020: Became a free agent.
January 15, 2021: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
April 4, 2021: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
June 8, 2021: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates; outrighted to AAA on June 12.
July 2, 2021: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
November 6, 2021: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates.