Difo may not find room on the 26-man roster once the regular season is ready to begin.
The 27-year-old has seen big-league action in each of the last five seasons, compiling a .663 OPS over more than 1,000 plate appearances, but the offseason addition of Starlin Castro and the return of Asdrubal Cabrera and Howie Kendrick could spell the end of that run -- the veterans give the Nats plenty of infield flexibility without sacrificing offense. Difo's best chance to win a bench spot could come if Carter Kieboom is deemed not ready to handle the starting third base job, but even then, the club could decide to go with Andrew Stevenson as the 26th man instead. Difo wasn't helping his case this spring when MLB was put on pause, either, going 4-for-30 (.133) with an 0:4 BB:K.
Difo signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Nationals on Sunday to avoid arbitration, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports.
Difo's contract entails that the Nationals still view the 27-year-old shortstop as a potential utility player around the infield next season. He's not guaranteed a roster spot and is out of minor-league options, so the team is going to eventually have to make a decision as to whether it wants him on the 40-man roster or not. Difo had a slash line of .252./.315/.313 with two home runs and eight RBI across 144 plate appearances in 2019 and seemingly has proven he can play at the major-league level.
Difo was recalled from Triple-A Fresno on Tuesday, Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports reports.
Difo's last action in the majors dates back to May 16, though he went on to post a decent .300/.369/.438 slash line with four homers, 30 RBI and 13 stolen bases over 61 games at Fresno. He's expected to slot into a bench role for the stretch run.
Difo was optioned to Triple-A Fresno on Friday.
Trea Turner (finger) makes his return from the injured list after missing six weeks to prompt Difo's demotion. The 27-year-old struggled to find any consistency at the plate despite a regular role, and slashed .231/.301/.298 with only four extra-base hits in 134 plate appearances. Difo figures to rejoin the Nationals at some point later in the season in a utility role.
Difo will start at shortstop and bat eighth Thursday against the Mets.
Difo will draw his 11th straight start, with the last nine of those coming at shortstop. He's only hitting .235/.278/.235 since resurfacing as a mainstay in the Washington lineup, and his time as a regular player could come to an end as soon as Friday against the Cubs. Trea Turner (finger) rejoined the Nationals for a workout Thursday and looks poised to come off the 10-day injured list this weekend, when he should assume everyday duties at shortstop right away. Turner's impending return will presumably push Difo into more of a utility-infield role.
Difo will start at shortstop and bat sixth Wednesday against the Brewers.
Top prospect Carter Kieboom's unsuccessful stint as the Nationals' starting shortstop came to an end Tuesday, when the team optioned him to Triple-A Fresno. With Kieboom out of the way, Difo should reclaim the everyday gig at shortstop he previously filled when Trea Turner (finger) landed on the injured list April 3. Turner lacks a concrete timetable and is probably at least two weeks away from returning, so Difo should have a window of steady at-bats, making him a player worthy of consideration in deep formats.
Difo will start at third base and bat second Sunday against the Phillies, Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports reports.
Difo lost out on an everyday gig at shortstop when Carter Kieboom was promoted to the majors April 25, but the utility man has now re-entered the starting nine three times in five games due to a deluge of injuries hitting the roster. With Matt Adams (shoulder) and Juan Soto (back) joining Ryan Zimmerman (foot) and Anthony Rendon (elbow) on the injured list this weekend, Difo could handle at least a part-time role for the next several contests.
Difo went 2-for-3 with a walk and solo home run Thursday against the Giants.
Difo took Drew Pomeranz deep in the fourth inning, his second homer of the season. He gained a regular role with the injury to Trea Turner (finger) but has struggled to produce in a meaningful way by hitting .229/.315/.375 across 52 plate appearances. He has looked a bit better in his last four games, however, going 5-for-13 with a double and home run.
Difo went 1-for-3 in Sunday's loss to the Pirates.
Forced into the starting lineup at shortstop in place of Trea Turner (finger), Difo has gone 3-for-24 over the last seven games, although he has salvaged some value with four walks. Carter Kieboom is raking at Triple-A (.382/.488/.618 through nine games), but the Nats don't seem anxious to rush their No. 3 fantasy prospect to the majors, giving Difo some job security until Turner gets healthy. If the 27-year-old continues to struggle at the plate, however, GM Mike Rizzo might have to consider other options.
Difo went 1-for-4 with a two-run home run in Saturday's loss to the Mets.
His eighth-inning shot off Jeurys Familia gave the Nats a 5-3 lead that their bullpen promptly coughed up in the bottom half of the frame. Difo has collected a hit in all four of his starts since Trea Turner (finger) got hurt, though Saturday's homer was his first extra-base hit of the year. His starting role is very secure considering he's the only true shortstop on the Washington roster at the moment.
Difo went 1-for-3 with two RBI in Thursday's win over the Mets.
Making his second start since Trea Turner broke his finger, Difo pushed across the first run of the game with a sacrifice bunt in the second inning, then added an insurance run in the ninth with an RBI single. The 27-year-old will have some fantasy value in deeper formats while he's seeing regular playing time, but his biggest impact should come from an occasional stolen base.
Difo will start at shortstop and bat seventh Thursday against the Nets.
General manager Mike Rizzo confirmed Wednesday that top prospect Carter Kieboom wouldn't be called up from Triple-A Fresno while Trea Turner (finger) is sidelined indefinitely, so Difo looks like he'll be in line for a full-time role at shortstop for the foreseeable future. He'll slot into the No. 7 spot in the batting order for the second straight game after going 1-for-4 at the dish Wednesday, when Jacob deGrom started for the Mets. Difo will draw another tough matchup with Noah Syndergaard on the bump Thursday.
Difo replaced Trea Turner (finger) at shortstop during Tuesday's loss to the Phillies, going 1-for-3 with a run scored.
With Turner out indefinitely after fracturing his finger on a bunt attempt, Difo will be the next man up for the Nats. Adrian Sanchez, called back up from Triple-A Fresno to take Turner's roster spot, is seen as a utility player and not a big-league starter at shortstop, and the club doesn't want to rush top prospect Carter Kieboom. Kieboom could always get promoted later if he has a great start at Fresno, however, much like Juan Soto forced the issue last year. Difo may offer some fantasy value with his legs -- he's stolen exactly 10 bases in each of the last two seasons -- but his career .250/.310/.358 line isn't particularly enticing.
Difo got the start in center field Saturday against the Cardinals, and the Nationals plan on using him as a super-utility player who could see action anywhere on the diamond this season, Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post reports.
The club has even toyed with the idea of getting him ready to be an emergency catcher. Difo has plenty of experience at shortstop, second base and third base already and has seen a smattering of games in the outfield over the last two years, but with Michael Taylor (knee/hip) unavailable for the first part of the season, Difo's ability to provide adequate defense in center field could become crucial to the Nats' bench construction. No matter how versatile the 26-year-old makes himself, however, he's unlikely to approach the career-high 456 plate appearances he saw in 2018.
Difo went 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored Sunday against Houston.
Difo drove in a run in the third inning on a fielder's choice and doubled in the seventh inning to left field. He's 5-for-22 with an RBI, two stolen bases and two runs scored this spring and remains on track for a reserve role when the regular season commences.
Difo is expected to open the 2019 season as a reserve for the Nationals, Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post reports.
Difo had also been ticketed for a bench job last spring before a slew of injuries opened up 104 starts -- 84 at second base, 16 at third and four at shortstop -- and 456 plate appearances for him. With the Nationals acquiring an everyday second baseman this winter in Brian Dozier and returning utility man Howie Kendrick (Achilles) to full health, Difo should be headed for a significant role reduction this season barring another onslaught of injuries.
Difo is not in the lineup for Friday's game against the Rockies, Dan Kolko of MASN Sports reports.
Difo heads back to the bench as left-hander Kyle Freeland takes the mound for the Rockies. Adrian Sanchez grabs another start at second base as Difo has yet to start against a southpaw in September.
Difo is on the bench Wednesday against lefty Wei-Yin Chen and the Marlins, the Nationals' official site reports.
Difo has sat against every lefty in September. As usual, Adrian Sanchez will get the call in his place at second base.
Difo is not in the lineup Sunday against lefty Steven Matz and the Mets.
Difo has sat against the last six lefties the Nationals have faced. Adrian Sanchez starts at second base in his place Sunday, as he has against the previous five southpaws.
Difo went 0-for-1 with a walk but stole his 10th base of the season Thursday against the Mets.
Difo entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, but swiped a base in the 10th inning after being intentionally walked. He's played regularly with right-handers on the mound since Daniel Murphy was dealt. Though not spectacular, Difo has provided four home runs and five stolen bases since August 1.
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