This past offseason the LA Angels unloaded Angels young first baseman C.J Cron to the Tampa Bay Rays for a PTBNL. This move was mostly a dump to free up first base at-bats for Albert Pujols, and many Angel fans felt stung.
However, after the LA Angels decided on bringing over Luis Rengifo from the Rays organization and the following half season of production he’s shown us we’re left with two questions. How legitimate is Rengifo’s talent, and when will we be seeing him with the Angels big league club?
Back in February of this year the LA Angels unloaded the four-year Angel C.J Cron, first baseman, to the Tampa Bay Rays in order to free up at-bats for Albert Pujols and the incoming full-time DH Shohei Ohtani. This move had all the qualities of a trade-dump; it didn’t seem like the Angels had anything suitable coming their way, especially with the clutch power-hitting C.J Cron going and nobody but a PTBNL in the news-feeds for Angel fans.
A quick overview; with RISP and two outs C.J Cron was hitting .289/.341/.632 with 4 HR’s and 17 RBI’s. Overall he hit to a .248/.305/.455 slash line in 2017 with 16 HRs, which shows he wasn’t exactly a critical piece of the organization but still valuable. Seeing him get sent away for a PTBNL felt like the Angels willfully took the shortest end of the stick.
Midway through the 2017 minor league season Rengifo found himself in a four player trade package that sent him and two Mariner prospects to the Rays. During his half season with the Rays single A squad he hit at a .250/.308/.333 slash line. Despite his explosive potential involving quick and soft hands, both offensively and defensively, split-second bat to ball skills and an eagle eye, Rengifo hit a few roadbumps en route to his ultimate development.
The Rays sent him away to the Angels due to his seemingly slow-handed development. In his four years prior to becoming an Angel, Luis Rengifo hadn’t hit over .250 aside from his aforementioned aged 18 season in which he hit .336. On the defensive end his early development was spotty, seeing his fielding percentage rise and drop inconsistently year after year.
In 2014 Rengifo fielded .965 at second base and .927 as shortstop. For reference, .965 is about below average; the Angels long-time defensively erratic shortstop held a career average fielding percentage of .973 and he was considered an above-average to great MLB shortstop. Rengifo has split time between 2B and SS throughout his career and holds career averages of .976 at second base and .936 at shortstop.
An easier way to look at it; Rengifo’s fielding percentages at 2nd base from 2014-18: .965, .994, .977, 1.000 (only 46 innings), .946. Likewise, his fielding percentages at shortstop are as follows: .927, .922, .926, .937, .947
He’s only 21 and still has plenty of developmental time, and as someone who’s watched him in person plenty he has a very Erick Aybar type of defense, at least currently. He has strong range and a great glove, yet there’s an erraticism that offers untimely errors and misplays. Of course this is something that can be worked out through the Angels system given time and proper coaching.
Rengifo started the season with the Angels High A Inland Empire 66ers, where he hit .323/.426/.466 in 41 games before being called up to the Angels Double A Squad, where he’s currently playing to a .326/.443/.514 slash line in 37 games. Rengifo classifies as a lead-off hitter, something the Angels are in desperate need for. His ability to make contact is strong; as a leadoff man he works counts fantastically with his ability to take proper pitches and display a defensive swing that keeps pitchers working to keep themselves in the at-bat. He’s as prototypical as a leadoff man gets, except with some extra panache. He has the speed and contact ability, he has the eyes and head to keep it together in the box, but most importantly he has the ability to really drive the ball.
In total, Rengifo has 21 doubles across both High A and Double A during his 2018 season. The most relating MLB comparison would be Maicer Izturis; a super-utility type player who always finds himself in the lineup, whether at 2nd or short, due to his high level of play, and most importantly always finds himself on base.
There’s a lot that the Angels need that Luis Rengifo can offer to the Angels. Lead-off skills, versatility in both defensive ability and offense; but most importantly he offers reliability. A player the organization can count on to show up. A player who can cover multiple team needs, especially with an organization that seems to struggle with player health.
The biggest takeaway from this trade? The Angels traded a somewhat semi-reliable power hitting first baseman for a up and coming super-utility infielder who offers the promise of a healthier and more productive team wherever he goes. Now, he’s still in Double A with a bit of development left in him before he’s truly prepared to do his part in hunkering down a Major League roster, yet the picture is much clearer at this point. The Angels didn’t just trade C.J Cron for the now of Pujols and Ohtani, they traded for another piece of their ever brightening future.