Los Angeles Angels GM Billy Eppler has magic touch.

By David Rice
Billy Eppler seen here with one of his top acquisitions Andrelton Simmons when he accepts a Gol Glove award. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Billy Eppler seen here with one of his top acquisitions Andrelton Simmons when he accepts a Gol Glove award. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Los Angeles Angels new general manager Billy Eppler made a lot of under the radar moves during the off-season that are paying dividends early in 2016 as the Angels have had to call on many of them due to injuries.

The Los Angeles Angels made a bevy of moves during the off-season that I will admit I didn’t understand or know who in the hell the guys the Angels were acquiring or signing via free agency were.

If you could tell me anything about Rafael Ortega, Gregorio Petit, Jefry Marte, or Rey Navarro except maybe their positions I would be impressed.  There were a few more guys who have not been heard from yet at the major league level, but who were impressive during Spring.

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So far the above mentioned four players have been called up at least once and some have gotten significant playing time due to the plethora of injuries at the major league level. Ortega has manned left field almost every day with the help of another recent Eppler pick-up Shane Robinson.  Ortega has shown the tools to possibly be an every day left-fielder.  Defensively Ortega has made numerous highlight reel catches and has also shown off his above-average throwing arm.  Offensively Ortega has been solid batting .240 with one home run and nine RBI’s as well as stealing three bases.

Another key pick-up in the off-season that is playing major dividends is Gregorio Petit, a journeyman middle infielder who has performed admirably in place of injured shortstop Andrelton Simmons and back-up Cliff Pennington.  Petit has played 82 major league games over the past eight years for Oakland, Houston, and the New York Yankees.  He has a career .249 batting average with two homers and 15 RBI’s.

For the Los Angeles Angels he has batted .233 with no home runs and four RBI’s, but more importantly he has solidified the shortstop position and has also played at second and third base as well and has been stellar. At age 31 Petit provides a somewhat veteran presence despite playing only 101 games in his major league career.  Without him the Angels would be in some trouble.

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Rey Navarro has only seen limited action in his one call-up this season, but did a solid job defensively as a middle infielder who can play shortstop or second base.  We may hear from Navarro again before too long if injuries keep mounting.  He also possesses tremendous speed as well.

The final Eppler gem is third baseman Jefry Marte.  Although he has not been up for long playing in only five games, Marte has made his impact felt.  So far he is hitting .429 with one home run and three RBI’s in 14 at-bats.  Marte had a huge game Tuesday night, hours after being called going 4 for 4 with a home run and two RBI’s almost hitting for the cycle in a wild 11-9 Angels victory over Detroit.  He did the same thing the last time he was called up in early May going 2 for 4 with two doubles and an RBI in a stirring 9-7 Angels victory.

Marte has shown solid glove work as well and has a strong arm.  He can also play first base if the need arises.

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This is not to mention Eppler going out and grabbing Jhoulys Chacin who is 1-1 with a 3.42 ERA and has three quality starts in four starts including Monday’s complete game masterpiece where he threw a complete game five hitter with 10 strikeouts against Detroit.  Also remember that Eppler was able to pursue and capture TIm Lincecum for a minimal price that could pay big dividends if he can return anywhere close to form from earlier in his career.

If not for Eppler’s forward thinking in the off-season to stack the minors with major league ready talent and quick actions to get some pitching help when the Angels were hit with a rash of injuries, think where the team would be at this point.  Probably one of the worst teams in all of baseball instead of team hovering close to .500 who remains within striking distance of the division lead which is all you can ask until the team gets healthier.

Next: Chacin Comeback Player of the Year?

So I say kudos to Eppler for now and let’s see what happens at the trade deadline and in the offseason when the big contracts of Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson come off the books and he has a little more money to spend during free agency.  That will be the key to the way the early part of Eppler’s legacy will be determined.

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