The Los Angeles Angels released veteran shortstop Jose Iglesias. Not because he was underperforming, but because the team clearly felt he was not a part of the long term plans. With the 2021 season all but lost, Joe Maddon felt it was time to see what they had in Jack Mayfield and Luis Rengifo.
The former has been a surprisingly positive contributor in place of the oft-injured Anthony Rendon this season. However, Rengifo has mostly been relegated to the Minors, getting the call-up on September 1 as a part of the annual roster expansion.
Rengifo — a career .214 hitter with a .617 OPS — was having a career-worst year during his first couple stretches in 2021. However, he looks significantly better in September. He’s played in just five games, but is 5-for-14 with a home run and a .971 OPS.
The Angels clearly envision him as a super utility player, but Rengifo feels he’s more of a shortstop, even if he’s willing to do anything the team needs, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“I love baseball,” he said. “If someone says ‘Do you want to play that position?’, I’ll do it, because I want the opportunity to play. Right now I’ll play shortstop or another position.”
“I’ve played all my career at shortstop… I’ve worked on a lot of things at shortstop with my hands and feet,” Rengifo said. “I feel way better right now.”
Part of what has helped Rengifo feel more confident at the Major League level was slimming down and putting together a really solid stint in the Minors. In between his last call-up and this one, he batted .326 with a .915 OPS at Triple-A.
However, earning an everyday shortstop role is going to be difficult. He has not had near enough sustained success to prove he’s ready for that, and the Angels likely won’t let Rengifo’s steady improvement stop them from shopping for shortstops in a loaded free agent class.
If the Angels don’t land or don’t attempt to land one of the top free agent shortstops — instead investing in pitching — it feels more likely that Rengifo and Mayfield split time while also playing utility roles.
Jo Adell breaking through in second season
The Angels were perhaps a bit too hasty when they called Jo Adell to the Majors last season. He looked lost at the plate and in right field, leading to being optioned to start 2021.
However, in his second stint, he looks like a whole different player. His OPS has gone up 240 points and his strikeout rate has has been cut almost in half. He’s also had multiple clutch moments this season as he prepares to become an everyday outfielder in 2022.