The Los Angeles Angels have needed to navigate their lineup with key players on their infield missing time as David Fletcher underwent surgery on his hip and Anthony Rendon was out with inflammation in his right wrist.
But these openings have left the door open for young players to step in and fill in the blanks, including Luis Rengifo.
Just as Andrew Velazquez has done by taking over the everyday shortstop role for Fletcher, Rengifo saw increased usage by former manager Joe Maddon and stepped up by posting a .792 on-base plus slugging and a wRC+ of 130 while receiving consistent at-bats.
The 25-year-old has been a solid role player and has acted as a solid bridge until Rendon returned, via Sam Blum of The Athletic:
“He’s gotten better,” Maddon said. “… He’s a switch hitter. He’s got a fine arm and runs well. There’s nothing not to like about the way he plays.”
Rengifo has played a majority of his games this season for the Angels at second base but has also spent time in the outfield. But the utility man just wants to be on the field, regardless of the position:
“If they want to put me in third base, second base, or right field, I have to make it my job,” Rengifo said, “and help my team.”
His current play might have allowed him to bump Tyler Wade down the depth chart even with Rendon returning to the club. But all Rengifo wants to do is prove he belongs:
“The most important thing is staying in the lineup,” said Rengifo, who hit his second homer of the season Tuesday night. “Staying playing.”
Although he missed a few days while on paternity leave and has seen a dip in his overall production, Rengifo looks like an important role player for the club moving forward
But as always in MLB, situations and streaks of playing well can change on a dime, so Rengifo will continue looking to establish himself.
Velazquez becoming a clubhouse favorite
When the Angels needed to find a replacement to man the shortstop position after losing Fletcher for a few months, they turned to Velazquez who was playing for their Triple-A affiliate, the Salt Lake Bees.
Prior to coming to L.A., Velazquez spent time in Arizona, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, and with the New York Yankees, but the Angels needed a steady glove up the middle. After his call-up, he quickly became a fan favorite and a favorite within the Angels clubhouse.
Velazquez currently leads all of baseball in defensive value per FanGraphs and is No. 1 in outs above average. His ability to fill in the void left by Fletcher has been seamless, and in other stops around MLB, organizations, and fans have taken note of his talent with the glove too.