Results tagged ‘ Wilmer Difo ’

Spring Training Preview, Part IV: Infielders

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by Kyle Brostowitz

Entering Spring Training, Washington’s 2015 40-man infield unit is a careful mixture of stability (Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon), transition (Ryan Zimmerman), quality depth (Danny Espinosa, Kevin Frandsen and Tyler Moore) and newcomers (Yunel Escobar and Wilmer Difo). The 2014 unit boasted two Silver Sluggers while leading Major League Baseball with 91 home runs. The combination of power, speed and defensive versatility allows this unit to be one of the most reliable in Major League Baseball.

We’ve already previewed the Nationals’ catchers, relievers and starting pitchers; now, in alphabetical order, let’s review the 2015 infielders.

*Note, 2014 totals reflect only Major League stats.

IAN DESMOND

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals2014 Season Totals: .255/.313/.431, 108 wRC+, 7.1% BB rate, 28.2% K rate, 4.1 fWAR in 648 PA.
2015 Steamer Projection: .258/.313/.416, 104 wRC+, 6.8% BB rate, 24.9% K rate, 2.9 fWAR in 619 PA.

The longest tenured member of the organization, Desmond is the unquestioned leader of this unit. He earned his third consecutive Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award in 2014 and was one of just three big leaguers to earn a Silver Slugger in 2012, 2013 and 2014, joining Andrew McCutchen (NL, outfielder), and Mike Trout (AL, outfielder) on this short list. Since the award’s inception in 1980, Desmond is the first National League shortstop to win back-to-back-to-back honors since Barry Larkin (HOF 2012) won five straight from 1988-1992.

Desmond was one of five “20/20” players in Major League Baseball in 2014 and his 24 home run/24 stolen base effort was his third straight dating to 2012.  He is as dependable as they come, appearing in at least 154 games in four of his five complete big league seasons.

WILMER DIFO

2014 Season Totals: N/A
2015 Steamer Proj.: .219/.252/.300, 53 wRC+, 3.8% BB rate, 14.3% K rate, 0.0 fWAR in 1 PA.

A speedy, switch-hitting middle infielder, Difo is a product of Washington’s revamped scouting efforts in the Dominican Republic. He was signed on June 3, 2010 and progressed steadily through the Nationals’ chain before exploding onto the scene in 2014, earning him recognition and inclusion on Baseball America’s Top 10 Prospect List for the Nationals (No. 7). He was added to Washington’s 40-man roster following the 2014 season.

Difo was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Valuable Player after leading the league with 176 hits while ranking second in total bases (263), second in stolen bases (49), fourth in RBI (90) and fourth in runs scored (91). His 90 RBI were the most among Nationals farmhands, while his .315 average was good for second. He was the recipient of the Bob Boone Award, which is granted annually to the Nationals Minor Leaguer who best demonstrates the professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, determination and work ethic required to play the game the “Washington Nationals Way.”

YUNEL ESCOBAR

2014 Season Totals: .258/.324/.340, 95 wRC+, 8.1% BB rate, 11.3% K rate, 0.2 fWAR in 529 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .271/.333/.367, 98 wRC+, 8.1% BB rate, 11.8% K rate, 2.1 fWAR in 522 PA.

Escobar, a slick-fielding middle infielder (2013 AL Gold Glove Finalist) is a veteran of eight Major League seasons. He was acquired from Oakland in exchange for right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard on January 14, 2015. Escobar appeared in 137 games for the Rays in 2014, his fewest since 2011, due to right shoulder soreness that sent him to the 15-Day disabled list (June 30–July 11) and a left-knee sprain in mid-September that ended his season prematurely.

Escobar is expected to bounce back from those injuries and return to form in 2015 to provide stability to the Nationals infield. He will transition to second base while also providing depth at shortstop, when needed. When he takes the field for Washington in 2015, he will become the third Cuban-born player to play in the big leagues for the Nationals, joining pitchers Livan Hernandez and Yunesky Maya.

DANNY ESPINOSA

New York Mets v Washington Nationals2014 Season Totals: .219/.283/.351, 75 wRC+, 4.9% BB rate, 33.5% K rate, 0.6 fWAR in 364 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .218/.278/.348, 74 wRC+, 6.0% BB rate, 30.1% K rate, 0.2 fWAR in 181 PA.

Espinosa bounced back from a wrist injury that plagued his 2013 season. He started off strong in the month of April, hitting .291 (23-for-79) with five doubles, one triple, and three home runs in 25 games. He also hit left-handers hard in 2014, batting .301 (31-for-103) with eight doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI, posting an .859 OPS from the right side of the plate. Espinosa’s versatility and elite defensive ability at shortstop and second base allow him to be used in a variety of roles by manager Matt Williams.

KEVIN FRANDSEN

2014 Season Totals: .259/.299/.309, 72 wRC+, 2.5% BB rate, 11.0% K rate, -0.6 fWAR in 236 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .270/.309/.357, 86 wRC+, 3.6% BB rate, 10.8% K rate, 0.0 fWAR in 173 PA.

Frandsen returns for his second season with the Nationals. He brings a strong bench bat and defensive versatility to Washington’s roster. Frandsen is a career .255 (38-for-149) pinch hitter, and his 25 pinch hits the last two years rank second in MLB behind only Reed Johnson (27).

In his first season in Washington, Frandsen led the Nationals with 11 pinch hits (T-10th in NL) and started 42 games at four positions (6 at 1B, 9 at 2B, 12 at 3B, 15 in LF). He hit .303 (23-for-76) vs. left-handed pitching and .298 (14-for-47) with runners in scoring position.

JEFF KOBERNUS

2014 Season Totals: .000/.250/.000, 4 wRC+, 12.5% BB rate, 12.5% K rate in 8 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .250/.302/.332, 77 wRC+, 6.1% BB rate, 18.3% K rate in 1 PA.

Kobernus began the 2014 season with Triple-A Syracuse, playing in two contests before sustaining a broken left hand suffered when he was hit by a pitch on April 7. He was placed on the 60-Day DL on April 12 and after several rehab assignments, was recalled on June 25 and reported to Triple-A Syracuse, where he would hit .269 with 13 doubles, one triple, two home runs, 22 RBI, 22 walks, 14 stolen bases and 27 runs scored in the final 56 games of the season.

He joined Washington when rosters expanded in September and appeared in four games for the Nationals.

TYLER MOORE

2014 Season Totals: .231/.300/.385, 94 wRC+, 7.0% BB rate, 29.0% K rate, 0.3 fWAR in 100 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .244/.305/.426, 104 wRC+, 7.5% BB rate, 25.2% K rate, 0.2 fWAR in 99 PA.

Moore was set to begin the 2014 season with Triple-A Syracuse, but was recalled to Washington on April 6 when outfielder Scott Hairston was placed on the 15-Day disabled list. Moore enjoyed three stints with the Nationals, appearing in 42 games. While with Syracuse he hit .265 with 21 doubles, 10 home runs, 44 RBI and 45 runs scored in 84 games. It marked the fourth time in the last five seasons Moore hit at least 10 home runs at the Minor League level.

ANTHONY RENDON

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals2014 Season Totals: .287/.351/.473, 130 wRC+, 8.5% BB rate, 15.2% K rate, 6.6 fWAR in 683 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .279/.350/.454, 125 wRC+, 9.0% BB rate, 15.6% K rate, 5.0 fWAR in 643 PA.

In his first full big league season, Rendon posted MVP-level numbers, finishing fifth in the NL MVP voting en route to his first National League Silver Slugger Award. He ranked fourth in MLB (2nd in NL) in Wins Above Replacement (6.6), according to Fangraphs.com, and his 111 runs paced the National League (3rd in MLB). He also ranked among National League leaders in hits (T-5th, 176), total bases (3rd, 290), doubles (T-4th, 39), extra base hits (T-5th, 66) and times on base (10th, 239).

Although he appeared in 28 games at second base in 2014, Rendon has solidified himself as one of the top third baseman in the game and will man the hot corner for Matt Williams in 2015.

RYAN ZIMMERMAN

2014 Season Totals: .280/.342/.449, 120 wRC+, 9.2% BB rate, 15.4% K rate, 1.2 fWAR in 240 PA.
2015 Steamer Proj.: .275/.344/.449, 122 wRC+, 9.2% BB rate, 18.5% K rate, 3.4 fWAR in 570 PA.

Houston Astros v Washington NationalsZimmerman’s 2014 season was marred by two extensive disabled list stints that limited him to just 61 games. He fractured his right thumb sliding head first back into second base on April 13 at Atlanta. He returned June 3 and, upon his return, selflessly shifted to left field to allow Matt Williams flexibility when filling out the lineup card. He suffered a strained right hamstring on June 23 in Colorado sprinting to first base to beat out a ground ball. He rejoined the Nationals active roster on September 20 and started four games, all in left field. Zimmerman played defensively in left field (30 games), at third base (23) and first base (1). He did not commit an error in left field while connecting on two outfield assists.

Zimmerman will again transition to a new position in 2015, making the full-time move across the diamond to first base. Zimmerman’s elite hands and instincts hope to prove valuable in making the transition as smooth as possible.

Nationals add Cole, Difo, Goodwin and Grace to 40-man roster

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals added four prospects to the team’s 40-man roster on Thursday, selecting the contracts of right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole, infielder Wilmer Difo, outfielder Brian Goodwin and left-handed pitcher Matt Grace.

All four prospects are now protected from the Dec. 11 Rule 5 Draft.

Washington Nationals v St Louis CardinalsCole, a fourth-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, was rated by industry expert Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the Nationals minor league system prior to the 2014 season. The 6-foot-5 righty went 13-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 25 starts between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, including a perfect 7-0 record in 11 starts for the Chiefs. He ranked among Nationals minor league pitchers in wins (T1st, 13), strikeouts (T3rd, 111) and ERA (4th, 3.16).

“A.J. has made a rapid ascension through the organization,” said Nationals Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Player Development Doug Harris. “He’s on the cusp of accomplishing his, and our, ultimate goal, and we look forward to his contributions going forward.”

 

At 22, Cole features a mid-to-upper 90s-mph fastball and front-end-of-the-rotation potential. He owns a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.24 and has struck out 9.1 batters per nine innings over the course of his career.

Cole was a significant piece of the six-player trade with the Oakland Athletics on December 23, 2010 that netted the Nationals left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez, among others. Washington then reacquired Cole, along with right-handed pitcher Blake Treinen, and left-handed pitcher Ian Krol in exchange for outfielder Michael Morse on January 16, 2013.

Difo, 22, set career marks in nearly every offensive category in 2014, hitting .315 with 31 doubles, seven triples, 14 home runs, 90 RBI, 37 walks and 91 runs scored in 136 games for the Hagerstown Suns. He was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Valuable Player after leading the league with 176 hits while ranking second in total bases (263), second in stolen bases (49), fourth in RBI (90) and fourth in runs scored (91). His 90 RBI were the most among Nationals farmhands, while his .315 average was good for second behind only Steven Souza Jr.

Difo, a native of the Dominican Republic, was signed as a non-drafted free agent on June 2, 2010.

“Wilmer is coming off a breakout season, in which he was honored accordingly with the South Atlantic League MVP,” Harris said. “He burst onto the scene and we expect him to continue on this upward trajectory.”

Following the season, Difo became the second recipient of the Bob Boone Award, which is granted annually to the Nationals minor leaguer who best demonstrates the professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, determination and work ethic required to play the game the ‘Washington Nationals Way.’

Washington Nationals v Detroit TigersGoodwin, 24, is considered one of the top position player prospects in the Nationals minor league system. He is an elite athlete with the ability to play any outfield position. During his first three professional seasons, Goodwin posted a .362 on-base percentage and has drawn a walk every 7.42 plate appearances. He advanced to Triple-A Syracuse for the first time in 2014, hitting .219 with 10 doubles, four triples, four home runs, 32 RBI, 50 walks and 31 runs scored in 81 games for the Chiefs.

Goodwin was selected in the supplemental round (No. 34 overall) of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

“We’re excited about Brian’s potential,” Harris said. “He shows five tools, and we’re looking forward to his future, and his ability to impact the game in a variety of ways.”

Grace went 5-1 with three saves and a 1.17 ERA (10 ER/77.0 IP) in 50 appearances between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse in 2014. He was promoted to Syracuse on June 16 and posted a 1.30 ERA (6 ER/41.2 IP) and a .194 batting average against in 28 appearances at the highest level of the Minor Leagues. Following the season, he was selected to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League as a member of the Mesa Solar Sox.

“Matt has made significant strides and really found his niche in the bullpen,” Harris said. “He’s performed extremely well in a relief role and we feel like he’s got a bright future as a left-handed bullpen guy going forward.”

The 25-year-old Grace features a heavy, sinking fastball, and induced ground balls at a rate of 69 percent in 2014. He was selected by the Nationals in the eighth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of UCLA.

To make room for these players on the 40-man roster, infielder Pedro Florimon was claimed on waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates, right-handed pitcher Ryan Mattheus was placed on outright assignment and elected free agency while catcher Jhonatan Solano was granted his unconditional release. With these moves, the Nationals’ 40-man roster is now full.

Wilmer Difo named South Atlantic League MVP; Lucas Giolito named Most Outstanding Pitcher & Top Prospect

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by Amanda Comak

Two more Washington Nationals prospects earned end-of-year accolades on Thursday with the South Atlantic League announcing Single-A Hagerstown infielder Wilmer Difo as the league’s Most Valuable Player and right-hander Lucas Giolito the league’s Most Outstanding Pitcher and Most Outstanding Major League Prospect. Additionally, Suns center fielder Rafael Bautista was named to the SAL post-season All-Star team and Single-A Potomac manager Tripp Keister was named the Carolina League Manager of the Year.

Difo, a mid-season SAL Northern Division All-Star and post-season All-Star second baseman, currently leads or is tied for the league lead in hits (174) and total bases (257). Hitting .321 this season, good for sixth in the league among qualifiers, Difo has worked to a .366 on-base percentage and a .474 slugging percentage for the Suns.

The 22-year-old native of the Dominican Republic is among the SAL leaders in RBI (88, third), stolen bases (49, second), runs scored (90, tied for second), extra-base hits (50, fourth) and most plate appearances per strikeout (9.55, fifth).

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game - World Team v United StatesGiolito, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 11 prospect in all of baseball at mid-season, went 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA for the Suns in 20 games this season. Over 98.0 innings he allowed 28 runs (24 earned) on 70 hits, including seven homers. Giolito, the Nationals’ first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, walked 28 and struck out 110.

The 20 year old was named the SAL Pitcher of the Week on two occasions this season and represented the Nationals at the Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game, along with outfielder Michael A. Taylor, in Minneapolis in July.

Bautista, like Difo, was named to the mid-season Northern Division All-Star team as well. The 21-year-old currently leads the league in stolen bases (66), and is tied with Difo for second in runs scored. Bautista is hitting .283 this year with a .337 on-base percentage and .373 slugging percentage. His 66 stolen bases are a Suns single-season record since the team has been a member of the South Atlantic League.

Keister managed Potomac to the first- and second-half Northern Division titles, clinching the second-half crown on Wednesday night. With a 75-55 record this season, Potomac will host Game 1 of the Northern Division Championship Series on Sept. 3 at Pfitzner Stadium.

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