Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Odd Difo promotion

25 comments

Welcome the majors Mr. Difo!  photo via offtherecordsports.com

Welcome the majors Mr. Difo! photo via offtherecordsports.com

So, Jayson Werth‘s wrist injury is going to keep him out longer than expected, so he hit the 15 day D/L and to cover his spot the Nats called up one of their two remaining outfielders on the 40-man roster, right?  You know, maybe Matt den Dekker, who was acquired in the late spring specifically to provide OF depth and who has MLB experience?

Nope.

They called up infielder prospect Wilmer Difo, he of exactly 33 games of experience above Low-A ball.  Difo, who last time I checked is NOT an outfielder.

Dave Cameron at Fangraphs also questioned this move, pointing out all the things i’d point out.  What exactly is Difo going to do on this team?  Are they planning on dumping Dan Uggla so that Difo becomes the backup utility infielder who can actually play shortstop?  I mean, I get that the team was already pretty over-loaded on outfielders (3 starters plus Moore, Robinson AND Taylor), so perhaps this move is to (finally?) rectify that imbalance.

Maybe the team just realized its 27th in the league in SBs and wanted some speed.

On another note, is it just me or is this team kind of running out of players?  Here’s how the 40-man roster breaks down right now:

  • 25 active
  • 6 on the 15 day D/L (Janssen, McLouth, Rendon, Rivero, Fister and Werth)
  • Another 2 on the 15-day D/L who should be on the 60-day, them having long-term injuries (Stammen and Johnson)

That leaves just seven 40-man players in the minors who could actually help the team.

  • Starters Hill and Jordan:
  • Relivers Martin and Davis, who was just optioned off the D/L for the first time in a year thanks to TJ recovery
  • Backup catcher Butler
  • Outfileders den Dekker and Brian Goodwin.

That’s it.  Has anyone heard one word about Nate McLouth?  That was $10M well spent.  At least Janssen is rehabbing and seems close.  Me, i’d be a bit worried about reliever depth.  Or not; it doesn’t seem to be exactly hurting them, as Bryce Harper powers the team into 1st place.

 

25 Responses to 'Odd Difo promotion'

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  1. I’m less inclined to diminish Difo. He played very well in the spring, and the team promoted Rendon quickly from AA over AAA players despite his limited college experience.

    People who watched Difo play in Harrisburg felt he was the sparkplug there, and given his Boone award in 2014, Difo may not be here to stay, but I don’t expect him to embarass himself.

    Trea Turner is on fire in AA, and has impressed folks in that organization as a winner who it will hurt to lose. A promotion to AAA is inevitable. Why not get a sense of the middle infield options the Nats have for 2016 before Turner is in the organization?

    It only seems like the organization is running out of players because they are willing to promote players based on merit. Good for the Nats!

    And if Difo brings more to the table than Uggla, perhaps he will stay around a bit longer than Werth’s return. One thing is for sure, he sure hits well in the clutch/late innings. That is always welcome.

    For those surmising trade winds, I would suggest that knowing what they have in Difo is valuable to decisions about whom they would want to acquire.

    The team is playing very well, and Janssen is the next option for late inning help. Once Rendon comes back, there will be even less opportunity for Difo to show what he has. So why not?

    I like it.

    forensicane

    19 May 15 at 3:39 pm

  2. correction on Rendon – limited pro experience

    forensicane

    19 May 15 at 3:39 pm

  3. I think this Difo thing about looking forward to the trade deadline and acquiring a big bat. If Harper keeps producing, the lack of protection in the lineup will become a big problem, and I think there is significant risk that Werth’s wrist will limit his production the rest of the way. I think the hope is that Difo can supplant Desmond to enable a trade for a rental OF power bat. This is audition time.

    Frank

    19 May 15 at 3:56 pm

  4. Todd, you were the one who talked several weeks ago of the odd makeup of the 25 man.
    If you’ve got a flaming hot prospect, give him a short taste of the show before sending him back down.

    I’m with fore on everything.

    Mark L

    19 May 15 at 4:41 pm

  5. I like it, actually. To me, it shows that the Nats (meaning Rizzo) really are committed to going for it this year. Den Dekker is meh; I don’t hate him, but he is primarily a defensive guy that they don’t need right now. Difo has been hitting well for 1 year +, did well in ST, has speed and probably won’t be here for more than 2 weeks, so why not see if he can add a spark through a pinch hit here or there, maybe a pinch run.

    Plus, it is consistent with the rep the Mats have in player development: slow promotions early, fast late. Difo is young, but not that young.

    And i think this does portend a trade, but not with Difo. Given how Rizzo is reacting, I’d expect a fairly significant bullpen piece, and maybe a lefty bench bat to replace Clint.

    Wally

    19 May 15 at 7:20 pm

  6. My flag boy said to your flag boy, Difo Difo all day … :)

    Wally

    19 May 15 at 9:17 pm

  7. The team has turned it around in a most dramatic way, and the reverse trend has been absolutely breathtaking. Looking back on a few weeks leaves me with several observations about the Nats and the system:

    1) The Nats have turned it around with still very little power threat other than Harper, and a negligible stolen base game. Harper is the dominant bat in the lineup and needs no protection. His plate patience is setting an example for others. And his defense has been a real positive. So glad he is nos amour (Expo word) to root for.

    2) The catalyst for the offense turning around has been the Span return, with his stepping right in and doing extremely well. The degree of the turnaround that coincided with his very successful return (as opposed to Werth’s) is as important to the longterm planning as the sexier players like Bryce. They win when Span is on fire. And winning is what you pay for. I am starting to wonder whether it makes sense to resign Span to a multi-year deal, given his overall impact on the rest of the lineup.

    3) All of this without Rendon! And when he returns, it will happen with, of all people, Espinosa having abandoned switch hitting but looking like the player they need him to be.

    4) Which brings me to Yuniel Escobar. At a fraction of the cost of Desmond, and likely better defense at SS, he has proven to not only be a very effective player offensively, and a stopgap while the entire rest of the starting lineup went cold, but a player whose character is adding to team chemistry. So impressed with Rizzo on this trade (so far).

    5) The inconsistency of the starting piytching continues to be a problem. I think we can all agree that the move to sign Scherzer has been wise on many levels.

    6) Tremendous underperformance and injury bugs down on the farm. We are into the middle of May, and there isn’t anyone showing meaningful power or transcedent speed. Difo to AA is the only position player promotion made on merit. And it’s hard to envision, at this point, anyone else. The dearth of position player talent has to be addressed in the draft.

    8) Bullpen performance in the minors has likewise been abominable. Harrisburg had four well thought of arms in De LosSantos, Mendez, Benincasa, and Self, and three imploded after Benincasa went down with injury. What the hell? Maybe Nick Lee or Jake Walsh will rise, but it’s pretty barren down there.

    9) I for one am looking forward to the return of Tanner Roark to the rotation. If that means trades of Desmond and/or Zimm/Fister for great prospect depth, it is needed and I welcome it.

    10) I’m not ready to give up on Tyler Moore, and I hope he gets his chances (here).

    11) And what’s coming? Werth in July (he rakes), Janssen, and even Erik Davis. And perhaps, signs of promise from Treinen and Cole. What a difference twenty games makes.

    forensicane

    20 May 15 at 3:23 am

  8. MarkL: yeah good point. And I still think its overloaded. You need 4 outfielders, not 6. Robinson has 5 ABs in the last 10 days, Moore at least as a start in May but otherwise has similar use. Hey, at least Robinson got to pitch :-)

    I just hope Difo call-up is temporary. Cameron in fangraphs said it best; Difo is not going to develop if he’s sitting on Washington’s bench. Now, if we dumped Uggla and Difo was getting nightly playing time as a backup infielder spelling someone, that’d be different.

    bully to him though for getting a hit in his first AB.

    Todd Boss

    20 May 15 at 8:51 am

  9. Truly weird. Just a month ago they demoted Taylor supposedly because they didn’t want to hurt his development (now it looks more like they were aiming to push his free agent clock back a year).

    I thought they’d consider recalling Goodwin, who has the speed to be a pinch runner, is a lefty, and has yet to give the Nats any return for the large signing bonus they paid him.

    Karl Kolchack

    20 May 15 at 9:32 am

  10. Difo is six months older than the freak of nature known as Harper, but a year younger than Taylor.

    Basically, Difo was the ONLY player in the system who was really hitting, and he was also on the 40-man. Goodwin, supposedly the next “hope” in the OF, has a .677 OPS after being demoted to AA. Gwynn has faded, as expected, and den Dekker has disappointed, although he’s never had any power. McLouth has entered the witness protection program.

    It will be interesting to see if they send Difo out to LF with Tony Tarasco for a few lessons. One would think that with his speed, it wouldn’t take much to make him “better” out there than T-Mo and Robinson.

    A midseason trade of Desmond if and when Rendon is back and whole? The Espinosa resurgence makes it possible, if it sticks. Desmond is finally showing some signs of life, though, and it would be a risky move to deal a supposed “team leader,” whatever that means. The Nats really wouldn’t have a spot in the lineup to plug in a big bat, where they to get one. So that would narrow the trade prospects to a starter with an expiring contract, or Chapman. The Reds are already 8 games out. I’m not sure that the Reds would want Desmond, though.

    As for the “team leaders,” I L-O-V-E-D seeing Scherzer pumping his fist right back at Harper on Sunday. Those guys are now driving the bus and pouring the chocolate syrup. It’s a new era.

    KW

    20 May 15 at 9:58 am

  11. Streaky team so far. They went 7-13 to start the season, now the’re 23-17. That’s a nice little clip of 16-4. Arbitrary endpoints of course, but they’ve done this little reversal while losing a SP, while enduring Strasburg’s 7 ERA, while losing their $126M RF and while still not having their best hitter from 2014. All hail Bryce Harper.

    Todd Boss

    20 May 15 at 10:06 am

  12. I wonder how much longer Goodwin has at this point. The team has a couple of moves to free up 40-man space, but you have to think that Goodwin is now #1 candidate to be dropped on this 40-man roster.

    Todd Boss

    20 May 15 at 10:19 am

  13. Desmond trade: you’d be selling low since he’s been so bad (In fact, I just picked him up off the waiver wire in my fantasy league, which is astounding … he was a 2nd/3rd round pick). Buuuuuut you’d be doing the player a huge solid by removing the draft pick compensation from him. Can’t see a trade though, that being said. 2015 is win now, not “move players strategically.” Rendon comes back and Espy is back to the bench, Uggla is cut loose.

    Todd Boss

    20 May 15 at 10:28 am

  14. I looked – Uggla *is* hitting better than Robinson and Moore. Not that I’m a huge fan, but between that and the fact that it’s almost certain that Difo needs to spend more time in AA/AAA learning, I think they’ll keep him around.

    kevin rusch

    20 May 15 at 10:55 am

  15. they also have a few options on the 40-man for when Turner comes over – there are a couple guys on the 15-day DL who are eligible to go on the 60-day.

    kevin rusch

    20 May 15 at 10:56 am

  16. Turner isn’t on the 40-man for SD so he doesn’t need to immediately jump onto ours. Well, not unless the Nats decide they want to call him up too :-)

    But yes, both Stammen and Johnson are candidates to move to 60-day to make room.

    Todd Boss

    20 May 15 at 11:08 am

  17. Desmond will pick up his numbers by the trading deadline. He is still sell lower right now, but they can get more for him than a draft pick. Still, with the team playing as well as it is, I don;t see Desmond being traded before Turner comes into the system and proves himself (along with Difo), and Rendon comes back and fully integrates with Espinosa and Escobar. It would be unwise to deal Desmond off a championship caliber roster unless there is COMPLETE confidence that the organizational depth can sustain it. And we really don’t know how soon Rendon will be back up to full speed.

    I think starting pitching is a more moveable commodity. Arms are going down all over the place. Zimmerman is holding his value, even though he is not having a Cy Young year. Trading him will still yield more value than the draft pick. And he is replaceable in THIS rotation, by Roark. The organization absolutely has depth, with 1) Treinen 2) Jordan 3) Cole 4) Ross (has turned it on).

    Speaking of which, if Lopez continues to dominate A+, might we see both him in AA sooner than soon? Younger and impressive arms are still waiting for a spot at A+ rotation.

    Fister is right now an obvious sell low. Hopefully his injury relieves soon enough.

    Strasburg is another candidate. Scherzer’s star power and leadership are enough to relegate Strasburg as a face of the franchise.

    With that said, I am no fan of the chocolate routine. The heroes don’t like it, and it looks like hazing. I hope someone thinks better of the quality of the celebrations before they degenerate into all out muggings. Hard enough to keep players off the DL.

    forensicane

    20 May 15 at 11:33 am

  18. They have to be patient with Goodwin and can be. He was out a long time and may take a little time to get back to where he was, and can be.

    With that said, there are a number of folks who have essentially 30-60 days to prove they have major league potential or be deemed washed up and wash out. That 30-60 days, interestingly enough, coincides with the trade deadline. I’m talking Skole, denDekker, Goodwin, Butler, Dykstra, Martinson, Hill, Pleffner, Ballou, Miller, and more.

    It also coincides with the team’s signings of its higher draft picks. Hopefully we will see a power infusion in June 2015, and the team augments that with Cuban or international signings.

    Bear in mind that there are numerous intriguing talents already in the system who have not yet surfaced but will be at Auburn, GCL, or Hagerstown by July. I can’t remember the last time there were that many folks on the outside looking in. Erick Fedde, Anderson Franco, Victor Robles, Jackson Reetz, Kelvin Gutierrez, Ed Lora, Joan Baez, Robbie Dickey, Diomedes Eusebio, and Bryan Mejia.

    So all of this factors into the trading deadline discussion and the areas of organizational need and turnover we are likely to see — a lot.

    forensicane

    20 May 15 at 12:01 pm

  19. The Nats HAVE to be patient with Goodwin, in large part because they don’t have a lot of other true “prospect” bats in the system. With him coming off an injury, I really didn’t think they had to put him on the 40-man to protect him from Rule 5, though.

    In thinking about it a little further, I can’t come up with a scenario for a major trade. Never say never, but I’m extremely doubtful. Only a contender would have any interest in a starting pitcher with an expiring contract. It would be nuts for the Nats to trade a starter to an NL contender, so you’ve narrowed the suitors down already to AL contenders. (Non-contenders, if they’re smart, would have no use for an expiring contract that wouldn’t net a draft pick.) The A’s are not among the AL contenders, so that doesn’t help the market. (Hmm, but it does bring up the prospect of “renting” Clip back from them for the title run.) Teams like the Yanks and Angels would be rich enough to think they could re-sign a player, but I’m not sure the Yanks will stay in contention. (The big-bucks Bosox are already floundering.)

    The other big part of this equation is that the Nats would have to be getting a serious return to give up a key cog in a potential championship squad, and that seems unlikely.

    A deal for a bench guy and a reliever would seem much more likely; Zobrist and Clippard from the A’s for a couple of mid-level prospects, for example. I can guarantee you that Clip isn’t going to end the season in O.co.

    Of course the bullpen fireballer we need may just be Rey Lopez. See him in Potomac soon, as he won’t be there long. (Giolito starts tonight.)

    KW

    20 May 15 at 12:40 pm

  20. On Lopez: Keith Law in a chat said of Lopez that he could be in the MLB bullpen right now and be effective with his stuff.

    Todd Boss

    20 May 15 at 2:31 pm

  21. I love this Difo move. I would guarantee, unless the guy continues hitting 1.000, he’ll be sent back to the minors in a few weeks. This is a cup of coffee, to see what he can do, and give him a little experience in the minors. Plus we can use his speed…

    In years past, the Nats would have picked up a tired, old veteran (is Ozzie Guillen available to play?) and then rode him to a .175 avg until they mercy dropped him a month later (calling Greg Dobbs). At least with Difo, we get to see a glimpse of the future and learn a little about the guy.

    As for the roster, I just don’t see any issues. We have 2 open spots on the roster and IMO if we want a few tired vets, Stewart, Gwynn, and Kila are already in our system, not to mention MdD. Janssen is back, Rivero is rehabbing, the Taylors have been pretty good, and Erik Davis can even get a try… not to mention hot prospects like Ross, Lopez, etc. Plus we have 2 roster spots available with 60-day conversions and Butler and Davis could also be DFA’ed without much concern.

    I love this Difo move.

    Andrew R

    20 May 15 at 11:48 pm

  22. I’ll save this for another thread when we go back to the Nats, but should be pretty obvious at this point that we are going to see Turner in Washington in September of 2015 if he keeps playing as he is. He is emerging as one of the best prospects in baseball, not just the Nats system.

    We are six days into the post I had above about the degree of movement in the system, and it’s already starting. Kila was released, Ramsey promoted, and with Syracuse made up primarily of retreads, the push from below (return of Vettleson, Giolito, Lopez) and the push from above (including Werth, Rendon, Fister returning) will squeeze out the castoffs within a month or two.

    But too many players who should have been a higher level have stalled offensively, including Severino. Once the draft brings 15-20 more players into the system, the team has decisions to make, even with Auburn, DSL, and GCL starting.

    There are still too many players for two few spots, and folks being held back in XST who should be on the field in the lower minors.

    forensicane

    26 May 15 at 10:01 am

  23. Down goes Werth! Todd, light the fire.

    I think we should see DenDekker up here and give Tyler Moore one last chance, let Taylor get more seasoning in AAA….

    forensicane

    28 May 15 at 4:41 pm

  24. http://natsinsider.com/2015/05/28/source-werth-has-2-fractures-in-hand-out-til-august/

    Well …. we talked about Taylor being our default 4th outfielder. Here’s his shot; he’s going to start from now til August.

    Todd Boss

    28 May 15 at 4:47 pm

  25. Todd’s favorite mantra: you can hide a slugger in LF. Find someone who can actually hit and stick him out there. Josh Willingham slugging .500 and lumbering around LF. That’s what we need out there.

    Todd Boss

    28 May 15 at 5:06 pm

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