After his first season in the major leagues, Luis Rengifo looked like the type of player who could serve as a super utility type for the Los Angeles Angels for years to come. However, in Joe Maddon’s first year as manager — a 60-game shortened season due to the COVID-19 pandemic — Rengifo dropped off significantly in production.
He went from a .238/.321/.364 player with a BAbip of .300 in 2019 to .156/.269/.200 and a BAbip of .206 in 2020. After falling off in nearly every offensive category, Maddon was unsure of what Rengifo’s future would look like in Anaheim. It’s because of this drop-off that Jose Rojas began the season as the team’s utility infielder over Rengifo.
The injury to Anthony Rendon gave Rengifo another chance to impress Maddon and find a way back to the roster full-time. The Angels manager has seen the hard work pay off and is happy with what he’s seeing from Rengifo mentally, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“The biggest thing for me with him is that his head was in every pitch,” Maddon said on Saturday, a day after Rengifo made his season debut. “The big thing with Rengifo is is just staying engaged mentally per pitch. The mental mistakes, we need to cut those out. Physically, he’s very gifted. He’s playing with a real good focus, a good look right now.”
“I think he’s on his way right now,” Maddon said. “I couldn’t have told you that last year in September… Compared to last year, conversationally, this is a totally different guy.”
Rengifo has always been a solid defender, especially when considering his ability to play at nearly every position on the field. However, it was his bat that fell behind significantly in 2020. He’s played just one game in 2021 due to postponements of their final two games against the Minnesota Twins, but went 1-for-4 in that game.
If Rengifo can put together a string of solid games, it will force Maddon to make a tough decision when Rendon is eventually activated to return. Rengifo could be immediately sent back to the alternate training site, or he could replace Rojas as the team’s utility fielder.
A potential third option would be to keep both Rojas and Rengifo with the latter serving as the fourth outfielder behind Mike Trout, Justin Upton, and Juan Lagares. Jared Walsh and Scott Schebler are currently the third and fourth outfielders, but Lagares figures to return soon, likely pushing Schebler back to the training site.
Shohei Ohtani should pitch sometime this upcoming week
While Maddon did not want to commit to anything, he did say that Shohei Ohtani is progressing well and may be able to pitch very soon. When he does, Maddon plans on having a long reliever ready to go behind him just in case the blister resurfaces.