With Wilmer Difo playing more center field for the Washington Nationals, what are the chances he makes the Opening Day roster?
Last year, the Washington Nationals tried to use Trea Turner in center field in order to get him into the starting lineup on a regular basis. Could they be trying to use center field as a way to get somebody more playing time in 2017? Of course, Adam Eaton will be the Major League center fielder, but what about his backup?
Yesterday, Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports tweeted that Wilmer Difo could be an option for the 25-man roster if the organization believes he can handle the position:
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Throughout spring training, Difo has been playing center field, a position he has never played before previously in his minor league career. But, last week, Dusty Baker told Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post about how versatility can help Difo’s value going forward:
"“This is adding to his potential value,” Baker said. “That is a valuable, valuable person. Any time you can move guys around and not lose anything defensively, that is a big, big, big plus.” (h/t Jorge Castillo, Washington Post)"
Right now, it’s tough to see Difo making the roster for Opening Day unless there’s an injury. With Michael Taylor hitting the ball as well as he has this spring, he has to be a shoe in for the second outfield spot on the bench along with Chris Heisey.
Without Danny Espinosa, the Washington Nationals are in need of a super utility player down the road. If Difo is blocked from playing second base by Daniel Murphy and shortstop by Trea Turner, then maybe the outfield is the best place for him to establish his value either for the Nats or another organization.
Now, if you look at triple-A Syracuse, there might not be a lot of room to play the outfield either on a regular basis. True, he could start in the outfield with the Chiefs along with Brian Goodwin and Rafael Bautista (according to Roster Resource). However, if Andrew Stevenson gets called up from double-A at some point this season, Difo loses his regular reps at that position.
This spring, Difo has been one of the best hitters on the team. The 24-year-old is 13-for-39 (.333) with four RBI’s and two stolen bases. He is second on the team in hits this spring behind the aforementioned Taylor (16).
It’s clear that Difo has the talent to compete at the Major League level. The only problem will be whether or not he can find a position to play on a regular basis and get used to being that utility player. If not, the Washington Nationals at least have a good trade chip to acquire a player they might need at the trade deadline.