Wilmer Difo is Here to Steal Your Bases
You probably don't know who Wilmer Difo is. Hell, I barely know who Wilmer Difo is. The middle infielder is not an especially sexy prospect given his lack of power (five career HR in 231 games) and propensity to make mistakes in the field (70 errors in 1022 career chances, .932 fielding percentage).
Difo has made himself interesting, though. He caught my eye by stealing two bases in each of Hagerstown's first two games of the season this year. With a career OBP of .342 buoyed by a mature-for-his-age control of the strike zone (11.4% BB rate and 13.3% K rate), he raises the eyebrows of stat guys like myself. His 76 stolen bases in 100 total chances (that's a 76% rate for those of you who didn't major in math) show off both the raw speed that scouts love (76 SB!!) as well as the efficiency that stat guys love (76%!!). With Difo, there isn't a superstar in the making, but there is enough to like about him for both sides of the prospecting aisle.
Besides the switch hitting, good plate discipline, and great speed, Difo's work ethic stands out. Byron Kerr wrote about the Nats' renewed effort to eat right and build strength during the offseason, mentioning that the Nats came up with a formula to rank each player's "relative strength" contrived from each player's efforts within conditioning, agility and weight lifting competitions. Difo ranked first in this competition, beating out top prospects Lucas Giolito and Jake Johansen in the process. Adam Kilgore also tweeted in mid-March that Difo was a guy who was impressing Nats officials during Spring Training. It's common to see minor leaguers who don't look like they're living up to their physical potential; Difo seems to be actively trying to raise his potential.
At just 22 years old, Difo is right in line with the prime age to play in the A-ball South Atlantic League. 2014 is an important year for him to show he can play a full season and hit more difficult pitching, but another solid year could put him solidly on the prospect radar rather than being JAG (just a guy). He's already on the radar of minor league followers like myself and team officials, so Difo is obviously doing something right. For an organization that has been outright awful at developing International Free Agents over the years, Difo is both an encouragement and a pleasant surprise.
Below is a video of Difo stretching a single into a double during a Suns game on 4/5 (h/t to Walt Hilsenbeck for putting up the video on YouTube).