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.”
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.
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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