While he will likely find himself without a spot on the Opening Day roster, utility man Wilmer Difo has made a strong case to head north with the Pittsburgh Pirates
When the Pittsburgh Pirates signed utility man Wilmer Difo to a minor league contract he appeared to be a safe bet to crack the team’s Opening Day roster. Since then, however, things have changed.
The Pittsburgh Pirates traded for outfielder Dustin Fowler and signed veteran corner infielder Todd Frazier, both of whom appear to now have bench spots locked up. Add in the team now appearing likely to take just four bench players north to Chicago when the regular season begins next Thursday, and Difo now appears to be a player without a MLB roster spot when the 2021 season begins.
Difo may not have a spot on the Opening Day roster with the Pittsburgh Pirates but it would not be due to his performance this spring. In Grapefruit League play the switch-hitting utility man is 10-for-36 with a pair of doubles, four walks and just five strikeouts.
The 28-year-old Difo is also finishing Grapefruit League play strong. After collecting a hit and driving in a run in Thursday night’s loss against the Baltimore Orioles, Difo has now reached base safely in 11 consecutive games.
In six seasons with the Washington Nationals the versatile Difo has hit for a .247/.309/.348 slash line to go with a 71 wRC+. While these are below average offensive numbers, they are more than serviceable for a bench player. Difo also brings plenty of value defensively. He can play third base and second base at an above average level, as well as having the ability to play shortstop and the corner outfield positions.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates do start the regular season with a five man bench then Difo should have a great shot at cracking the Opening Day roster. Either he or the red hot Phillip Evans, who is one player forcing some tough roster decisions for the Pirates, would be the likely benefactor.
Even if Difo does not start the season with the team, which appears to be the likely outcome, we will almost assuredly see time in Pittsburgh this season. Between injuries, players not performing, potential trades, etc., the team will need to dip into the minors for reinforcements this season. Odds are, Difo would be one of the first position players tapped by the Pirates for such reinforcement this season.