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OC Register: Luis Rengifo’s power potential encourages Angels


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HOUSTON — Standing in a hallway in the Angels’ clubhouse, Shawn Wooten was in the middle of a discussion about Luís Rengifo’s power when the Angels rookie infielder walked past.

The Angels assistant hitting coach reached out and grabbed Rengifo’s arm.

“Look at these things,” Wooten said, with his hand around Rengifo’s bicep. “He looks like he could fill out. He’s 22. Think about him in two years. He’s going to be bigger and stronger, more mature.”

Wooten then made a prediction about how Rengifo’s power could manifest in terms of homers: “I think there’s 25 in there.”

Rengifo has just six homers through the first 309 at-bats of his debut season in the big leagues. But Wooten and others around the organization have lofty hopes for him because of what he did on Saturday night.

Rengifo blasted a homer up to the train tracks beyond the left field fence at Minute Maid Park, a blast measured at 425 feet. A few days earlier, he had a belted a 427-foot homer against the Texas Rangers.

“The power’s starting to shine through,” Manager Brad Ausmus said. “We’ve said all along, for his stature, he’s got a lot of power. It’s just a matter of consistent contact. He hit the home run in Texas, he hit the home run tonight. Some of the home runs he hits are moon shots. He has a tremendous amount of power, it’s just a matter of consistency.”

Ausmus then pointed out that Rengifo began last season in Class-A. He rocked through three levels of the system in 2018, the first season after the Angels got him in trade for C.J. Cron just before spring training.

This season he made his big league debut April 25, and since then he’s been on a rollercoaster of performance. Over the past 14 games, he’s been on an upswing, with a .278 average and a .361 on-base percentage.

“I go up and down, up and down,” said Rengifo, who is hitting .243 with a .329 on-base percentage and .701 OPS. “But right now I’m feeling good. I’ve learned a lot this year.”

The biggest issue currently in Rengifo’s offensive game are strikeouts. He has struck out 75 times in 354 plate appearances. Over the seven games prior to Sunday, though, he’d struck out just once in 31 plate appearances. He had only nine strikeouts in his previous 70 plate appearances.

“There’s been a lot of conversation about controlling the strike zone and getting a good pitch, controlling his emotions,” Wooten said. “I think this is his second time going through and seeing (pitchers). It helps that he knows what they’re trying to do.”

If Rengifo can continue to improve, Wooten has lofty expectations for him.

“I’m not going to put him next to their second baseman,” Wooten said, referring to the Astros’ José Altuve, “but he can be that type of player. He has some power. He can run. He can bunt. He can do some things. … With his growth, he has the potential to be a superstar. The tools are off the charts. But it’s just obviously a matter of putting it all together, like a lot of young kids.”

ALSO

Tommy La Stella has begun taking some ground balls and hitting off a tee, Ausmus said. La Stella is out with a fractured leg, expected to return sometime in the next two weeks.

UP NEXT

Angels (LHP Andrew Heaney, 3-3, 4.31) vs. Rangers (LHP Mike Minor, 11-7, 3.17), Tuesday, 7:07 p.m., Fox Sports West

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Rengifo is one of many reasons I have hope for the future of this team.  He's been decent this year, but we're only seeing the 22 year old rookie version of him.  His power is still developing, and he really hasn't used his ability to steal bases yet.  He's got more in the tank in terms of pure hitting ability, and perhaps the most significant, we haven't seen him display his exceptional plate discipline from the minor leagues. 

So yeah. he's been solid this year.  But three years from now, he's going to be absolutely terrifying hitting atop the Angels lineup for opposing teams.  While I don't think he has 25 HR potential like Wooten feels, at least not unless they continue to use this year's comically HR prone ball, which shatters any legitimacy of these numbers,  I do think Rengifo will develop into someone that hits 15-20 HR's, steals 20+ bases and gets on base 37% of the time. 

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I never thought Ketel Marte would be a 25-30 HR guy, yet here we are. He never hit more than 6 in the minors and it's not even September and he's hit 27, still only at the age of 25. 

Since he was recalled for a second, and currently permanent time, in mid-May, Rengifo has slashed .248/.337/.376/.713, which is pretty damn solid for a 22-year old rookie mid-infielder. About a 70 walk, 30 double, 5 triple, 12 HR pace over 162 games. Even if he doesn't take a huge step forward, a .265/.350/.400/.750 slash seems like a realistic outcome - if his defense can improve a bit and he can add even 10-15 steals, that's great for league minimum.

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39 minutes ago, RBM said:

I agree. I think Rengifo is going to have a great career with the Angels.

And it's nice to see you have upgraded your opinion/projection of him. 

My projections of him have actually remained largely unchanged.  I saw him as a Maicer Izturis type, which is to say I felt the bat and plate discipline were very real, as were the glove.  But my doubts rested in his power and ability to steal bases mostly because he's quick, but not overly fast. 

Since then, I've swing the other way on things.  I'm still confident in his bat and plate discipline, but now I'm confident in his power as well.  Whereas his defense has sort fo gone the other way now.  He doesn't look nearly as good in the field as he did in the minor leagues. 

But the biggest thing I see here is more opportunity than before.  I used to believe that Fletcher was the 2B, Simmons the SS and La Stella the 3B, or possibly Thaiss.  Now, I'm not so sure Andrelton Simmons will be extended, great as he is.  And I'm not so sure Tommy La Stella will stick around.  We'll see if he comes back healthy, if the bat is still there and if another team makes a play for him.  And Thaiss has his flashes for sure, but it's also clear that he could use more development time at 3B in AAA.   Defensively he's looked great, but he's been too inconsistent at the plate.  And now we're seeing more of Rengifo and Fletcher at SS out of necessity.  Either of them could play 3B too. 

End of the day, I think next year Rengifo and Fletcher rotate between super utility and starter, but after next year, Simmons and La Stella will be out, and Rengifo will move to 2B with Thaiss at 3B. 

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I'm very curious to see how next year's infield plays out, with a healthy Simmons and La Stella to go along with Fletcher, an improving Rengifo, and Thaiss. My guess is that we're going to finally see Pujols take a big hit in PA, with Thaiss getting a lot of time at 1B.

And of course if Marsh advances quickly not far behind Adell, Upton could get time at 1B/DH, further diminishing Pujols' role.

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2 hours ago, Scott34 said:

Rengifo has to have a chance before La Stella next year. I think Thaiss gets dealt this offseason.

No he doesn’t - La Stella was hitting .300/.350/.500/.850 in a breakout season and fits Eppler’s dream offensive skill-set to a T. 

Rengifo arguably wouldn’t have even left SLC if Simmons, Cozart, and La Stella all didn’t wind up missing big chunks of time.

I really like Rengifo but I can’t say this enough - having great depth is a great thing to have and is a hallmark of recent championship teams. 

If the Angels start 2020 with a Rengifo, Thaiss, Adell, and two of Sandoval, Suarez, Barria, even Canning in SLC, it’s a very good problem to have. A reminder, Wilfredo Tovar got 31 G/90 PA in this season. Bour got 160. Puello, Parker, and Bourjos combined for 115. 

I do agree that Thaiss, or Rengifo, are both strong trade candidates. 

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2 minutes ago, totdprods said:

No he doesn’t - La Stella was hitting .300/.350/.500/.850 in a breakout season and fits Eppler’s dream offensive skill-set to a T. 

Rengifo arguably wouldn’t have even left SLC if Simmons, Cozart, and La Stella all didn’t wind up missing big chunks of time.

I really like Rengifo but I can’t say this enough - having great depth is a great thing to have and is a hallmark of recent championship teams. 

If the Angels start 2020 with a Rengifo, Thaiss, Adell, and two of Sandoval, Suarez, Barria, even Canning in SLC, it’s a very good problem to have. A reminder, Wilfredo Tovar got 31 G/90 PA in this season. Bour got 160. Puello, Parker, and Bourjos combined for 115. 

 I do agree that Thaiss, or Rengifo, are both strong trade candidates. 

I feel ya. That Salt Lake team next year is going to be fun to watch no matter what. 

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