Quietly, like a pro, Wilmer Difo keeps Nats rolling

He made another big play defensively in the ninth inning to help Shawn Kelley earn the save as the Nationals swept out of Atlanta with a 3-2 win over the Braves.

I am talking about 25-year-old shortstop Wilmer Difo, who has done a very good job of playing defense and has worked hard in each at-bat. He has been crucial to the Nationals, not missing a beat while Trea Turner and Stephen Drew recover from right hamstring strains.

Difo has started eight games since April 11.

difo-throw-spring-training-white-sidebar.jpgHe has committed only two errors and has been a part of six double plays. His range factor is 4.75. Range factor is a ratio of putouts plus assists divided by games played. Former Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa has a current range factor of 3.67.

Difo has a double, two RBIs and a batting average of .229. The Nationals are 6-2 when he starts.

This is all very impressive stuff for a highly-regarded prospect who has had only a handful of games in the major leagues. He has now played in 57 games since 2015. He also played in two games in last year’s postseason.

Nationals director of player development Mark Scialabba and the minor league staff of coaches, managers and coordinators have worked very hard over the years to focus Difo’s strengths and get him major league-ready.

“Wilmer’s skill set has evolved over time, and we’re proud to see him making strides on both sides of the ball at the major league level,” Scialabba said. “He’s always had the ability to impact the game defensively up the middle, has improved his technique and arm strength at shortstop, and is developing a better command of the strike zone at the plate with consistent at-bats. He also can change the game with his legs on the basepaths. We continue to believe he has a bright future ahead.”

Players such as Pedro Severino and Difo got the shot last season to play in the National League Division Series and late in the season as the Nationals clinched their third division title.

Fast forward to 2017, and Difo is not only a very good player on the field but also the consummate positive and upbeat teammate in the clubhouse.

“He’s full of energy and wants to do whatever it takes to help our team win,” Scialabba noted. “His exposure last season in D.C. at the major league level and through the playoffs helped prepare him for his opportunity in front of him right now.”

The highest compliment that can been given to Difo is really manager Dusty Baker not talking about him. That demonstrates how much the Dominican player belongs on this club. He is doing his job. And he has only scratched the surface of his potential.

* The rumbling you hear from the Nationals’ minor league ranks is the outstanding start to the season for right-hander Erick Fedde. In three games to begin the season with Double-A Harrisburg, Fedde is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings. Last night, he tossed seven innings in a 1-0 loss, scattering five hits and allowing one run with three walks and eight strikeouts. He hit a season high in pitches with 103, 61 for strikes. Opponents are managing a .185 batting average against him. Yes, I do think he is a spot-start call-up sometime this season.

* Be sure to check out Episode 3 of the District 34 podcast, filled with 37 minutes of in-depth Nats coverage with news on Difo, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, the bullpen and much more.

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