Wilmer Difo continued his breakout season for the Washington Nationals this week, leading to him being named District on Deck’s player of the week.
Washington Nationals infielder Wilmer Difo has done an admirable job while filing in at various positions this season and has quickly made himself an extremely valuable member of the team. With Michael Taylor, Trea Turner, Jayson Werth, Adam Eaton, Koda Glover, and Shawn Kelley all on the disabled list and someone new getting injured seemingly everyday, Difo has become nearly essential.
Difo’s ability to not only play multiple positions, but play them well has been tremendously beneficial for the Nats. This season, he has played second base, shortstop, third base, left field, and center field. Although he has struggled in the outfield, his willingness to play there despite strictly being an infielder for his entire professional career shows that he will do whatever it takes to help the team.
On top of being an above average defender at multiple positions, Difo has been surprisingly productive at the plate. His batting average, .236, is a bit misleading; it’s nothing to write home about, but is weighed down due to some struggles while not receiving much playing time. His ability to hit from both sides of the plate also gives Dusty Baker some flexibility and can cause headaches for opposing mangers while attempting to play the matchups with their bullpen.
Although the Nats would obviously prefer to have Turner playing shortstop everyday, Difo has played exceptionally well. The team also seems to play better when he is in the starting lineup. This year, the Nats are 17-4 when he starts. This is excellent, especially considering that Anthony Rendon, Turner, or Daniel Murphy are most likely not in the lineup if Difo is playing.
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Starters need off-days in order to stay fresh for the entire season and having productive players, such as Difo on the bench makes it much easier on Baker to rest starters if necessary.
Difo continued his phenomenal season this week, reaching base in all six games and recording a hit in every game that he received an at-bat in. He also led the potent Nats lineup in quite a few offensive statistical categories.
He played in all six games and led the team in walks (six), strikeouts (zero), stolen bases (one), batting average (.583), on-base percentage (.650), and on-base plus slugging (1.317). He was also third in hits (seven), barely behind Bryce Harper (10) and Murphy (nine). This is astonishing since he only received 12 at-bats, while Harper and Murphy received 23 and 21, respectively.
Difo’s best game of the week came on Thursday against Atlanta. After sitting around for a three-hour rainless rain delay, he managed to have a phenomenal game. He went 2-for-2 with a double, RBI, and a walk. Another notable detail from this game is the fact that all of his plate appearances came against Mike Foltynewicz and Jim Johnson, both of whom did an outstanding job of shutting down the Nats offense.
Friday night was another remarkable game for Difo. He entered the game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement for Stephen Drew and then singled in the ninth inning, advancing the potential winning run to third base. This single also came off of Johnson, who has the fourth-most saves in the National League.
Wilmer Difo has quickly become a fan favorite due to his versatility, scrappy play, and unorthodox walk-up music, such as “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers. While the Nats have undoubtedly felt the impact of losing Trea Turner, Difo has done an incredible job of filling in and continues to prove that he belongs in the big leagues and is here to stay.