The Los Angeles Angels are one year removed from loading up on pitching in the draft, but chose to select a position player with their first-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft in shortstop, Zach Neto.
The 21-year-old is coming off a season at Campbell University in North Carolina where he posted a slash of .407/.514/.769, easily his best as a college prospect. Neto was ranked the 17th prospect by MLB Pipeline, and although some may acknowledge his ability as a two-way player, the Angels drafted him as a shortstop and plan to develop him at that premier position.
Neto’s strong suit is undoubtedly his defense and an uncanny ability to uncork a rocket to first base on any ball hit his way. His arm strength is what allowed him to serve as a reliever in college, but first-year Angels scouting director, Tim McIlvaine, expressed his excitement for the opportunity to watch him develop, via Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“He’s athletic and he moves really well,” McIlvaine said. “He’s got great body control. He can move laterally to his left and to his right. Then when it gets in the box, he’s got a nice big swing. He’s got big bat speed and surprising power for his size. He can really get into the ball.”
Neto slugged 15 home runs, stole 19 bases, and drove in 50 runs in just 53 games for Campbell, was also named the Big South Baseball Player of the Year in each of the past two seasons. McIlvaine spent many years with the Milwaukee Brewers organization, and he believes Neto has some skills that are a special blend.
“What we really liked is how much he knows the strike zone,” McIlvaine said. “He doesn’t get himself out. He doesn’t chase. He makes pitchers throw pitches in the zone and then he hits the ball hard. There’s just a lot to like about him and we love his athleticism up the middle.”
Neto showcased his progression with his baseball intelligence and his ability to limit his strikeouts while racking up the walks.
The Angels aren’t worried about their ability to sign Neto, as he carries a slot value of $4,410,200 million. He was the only selection for the club on Sunday, after they forfeited their second-round pick to sign Syndergaard.
Experts believed Angels would go pitcher in first
After stocking up on pitching in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Angels were looked on as in contention to draft another arm in the first round, but they couldn’t pass on the tools that Neto possesses.
McIlvaine said the Angels divvy up their draft board into halves and hone in on their selection once the picks fall a certain way. Once their room decided that Neto was the pick, they called it in.
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