Wilmer Difo’s suddenly rapid rise

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — For much of his professional career, Wilmer Difo has not been a fast-moving prospect. That changed dramatically on Monday, when the Nationals called up the 23-year-old infielder as they placed Jayson Werth on the disabled list.

The move was the result of several circumstances. Difo was one of the organization’s few Minor League position players who already was on the 40-man roster, and manager Matt Williams said the the club already had enough options available for the outfield. Difo, meanwhile, offers extra middle-infield defense and speed on the bases.

While Difo’s stay could be short, Williams said he doesn’t believe the promotion straight from Double-A Harrisburg will affect Difo’s development.

“I know he’s excited to be here,” Williams said. “He’s already been on the field for early grounders and early hitting, and he’s working hard. We don’t know exactly what the game is going to provide for us on any day, but he’s got a lot of tools, can do a lot of things for us.”

Still, it’s worth looking at Difo’s gradual — then suddenly rapid — ascent up the ladder.

— 2010 (age 18): 45 games in Dominican Summer League … .570 OPS

— 2011 (age 19): 64 games in DSL and rookie-level Gulf Coast League … .794 OPS

— 2012 (age 20): 54 games in GCL … .703 OPS

— 2013 (age 21): 61 games in GCL and three Class-A affiliates … .644 OPS

— 2014 (age 22): 136 games at Class A Hagerstown … .831 OPS

— 2015 (age 23): 33 games at high Class A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg … .887 OPS

Difo attributed his progress over the past couple of years to staying healthy, and this spring he was able to play with the big league club in 13 Grapefruit League games, batting .318 and impressing Williams with his aggressiveness.

Now, after only 14 games above Class A, he’s in Washington. It’s certainly an unusual trajectory. Let’s see how that compares to the games other current Nats position players spent in the high Minors before their Major League debuts.

— Anthony Rendon, 35

— Bryce Harper, 58

— Ryan Zimmerman, 63

— Wilson Ramos, 71 (Twins)

— Michael Taylor, 102

— Danny Espinosa, 123

— Jose Lobaton, 131 (Padres)

— Tyler Moore, 160

— Yunel Escobar, 167 (Braves)

— Dan Uggla, 218 (D-backs)

— Ian Desmond, 227

— Clint Robinson, 323 (Royals)

— Denard Span, 343 (Twins)

— Jayson Werth, 356 (Orioles/Blue Jays)

And how about some high-profile position players from other teams?

— Albert Pujols, 3 (Cardinals)

— Alex Rodriguez, 17 (Mariners)

— Buster Posey, 35 (Giants)

— Miguel Cabrera, 69 (Marlins)

— Joe Mauer, 73 (Twins)

— Mike Trout, 75 (Angels)

— David Wright, 91 (Mets)

— Ryan Braun, 93 (Brewers)

— Paul Goldschmidt, 103 (D-backs)

— Troy Tulowitzki, 104 (Rockies)

— Giancarlo Stanton, 132 (Marlins)

— Andrew McCutchen, 339 (Pirates)

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