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2021 Angels Player Review: Luis Rengifo

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The Angels Took A Long Look At Rengifo Playing Shortstop Near The End Of 2021, Potentially Making The Case For Him To Be The Next Everyday Starter

Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

Luis Rengifo is no stranger to ping ponging between Anaheim and Triple-A Salt Lake. Since his Major League debut in 2019, the Venezuelan native has been optioned/recalled on 13 different occasions while contributing in 80 Bees games and 195 Angels games. Due to the laundry list of injuries the Halos endured this season, Rengifo was the beneficiary of playing time to fill in the most glaring gaps.

During his first long stint with the Halos that spanned across 24 games (June 17 - July 27), Rengifo finished swinging a .166 average (12-for-72) with 2 HR and 6 RBI. Even though it was not an impressive time, things did indeed start off on the right foot on June 17 against the Detroit Tigers where he recorded his first multi-hit game and RBI of the season. He turned that effort into a great three-game series totaling four hits in 11 at-bats, 3 RBI and 4 runs scored.

After returning to Salt Lake to open the month of August, his stay would last for 23 games (August 1-30), giving the infielder the opportunity to gain a resurgence in his bat. He slashed .326/.365/.551 with 3 HR, 13 RBI, 17 R and 9 Doubles.

When the 24-year-old got the opportunity to play in the everyday lineup all September long, the power stroke to his swing came alive in a clutch way. The first time occurred on September 11 against the Houston Astros as his third inning two-run home run proved to be the game winning hit as the Angels went on to defeat their AL West foe 4-2.

The second occasion got the afternoon party going on September 16 against the Chicago White Sox by crushing another two-run home run and sparking a nine-run, 10-hit effort in a series clinching 9-3 victory.

Overall in his 23 September games, the switch hitting infielder slashed .260/.314/.416 with 4 HR, 12 RBI, 11 R and 6 Walks, which ranked top-5 on the team. These numbers included a stretch of games between September 7-22 where he batted .282 (13-for-46) with 3 HR, 8 RBI and 7 R.

2021 STATS

54 Games / 174 AB / .201 Avg. / .246 OBP / .310 SLG / .556 OPS / 35 H / 6 HR / 18 RBI / 22 R / 1 2B / 9 BB / 1 SB

BEST OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCE

One of the sweetest come-from-behind victories of the 2021 season came on a rainy night in the Bronx against the New York Yankees. The game was highlighted by Jared Walsh, who recorded two home runs (including 9th inning game-tying grand slam), however, it was Luis Rengifo who became the unsung hero by the time the final out was recorded. With starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani being lifted just two outs into the bottom of the first, manager Joe Maddon had to perform a juggling act with the lineup that lost a DH and utilized every bench player, and nearly pitcher, possible.

In the top of the ninth, Rengifo stepped to the plate for his one and only at-bat with two on and two out in a 8-8 tie game. Opposing pitcher Lucas Luetge could not slide a 2-2 cutter past Rengifo, who jammed the ball into the left field corner, scoring Phil Gosselin and David Fletcher. This clutch single for the utility infielder gave the Angels their first and only lead of the night en route to an 11-8 win.

BEST DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE

On a day where stadiums across Major League Baseball could welcome back fans at 100% capacity, the Angels welcomed the Detroit Tigers to town as well as Rengifo, who was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake that afternoon. Starting at second base, Rengifo partnered with Taylor Ward (RF) and Kean Wong (3B) in the top of the second on a terrific relay to nab Tigers’ outfielder Akil Badoo from reaching base with a leadoff triple.

Rengifo, who has seen his playing time range from the infield (2B, 3B and SS) to even the outfield (RF and LF), showed off his arm strength and accuracy with a perfect throw from shallow right field to the front of the third base bag. You know the play must have been impressive if Shohei Ohtani fist bumped and smiled in grand approval!

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2022

Right off the bat, Rengifo will be thrusted into a competition for the vacant shortstop position left when Jose Iglesias was released in September. With no big name free agent shortstops being acquired thus far this offseason, the competition for the Opening Day spot currently surrounds Rengifo, Jack Mayfield, Brendon Davis (promoted to 40-man roster from AAA), Andrew Velazquez (acquired from NYY) and Tyler Wade (acquired from NYY). Based on experience, Rengifo and Mayfield would lead the charge, but Spring Training could open the door for a number of possible outcomes.

If Rengifo wants to stick around for seasons to come, 2022 must be a career year in all facets of his game. Already playing a total of 195 games in the last three seasons with the Halos and not quite making a definitive impact shows he is not a lock for the future. With the defensive mindset that Maddon preaches to the club, a .949 fielding percentage (in 2021) will need to be the biggest area of improvement to Rengifo’s game regardless if he is playing second, short, third or even the outfield. In the batter’s box, limiting the numbers of strikeouts is always a good place to begin. With the speed Rengifo possesses, elevating his OBP would be a valued tool at the bottom of the lineup that can in turn get the top of the order (Ohtani, Trout, Rendon and Walsh) extra impactful at-bats with RBI opportunities. Even with Rengifo still under club control with a rookie contract that leads to his first year (of three) of arbitration after the 2022 season, the moment is here and it is boom or bust time for the infielder.

2021 OVERALL GRADE: C-