The Los Angeles Angels called up top prospect Zach Neto midway through April to get a taste of Major League Baseball, and in a few short weeks, he’s already proving to do whatever it takes to positively impact the team.
Neto was selected in the first round of the 2022 MLB Draft out of Campbell University, mainly because of his elite bat-to-ball skills, but also his improvement in reducing his strikeouts and increasing his walk rate to 15.2% in his senior year.
After joining the Angels Minor League ranks, Neto picked up where he left off. Maintaining his zone awareness and making the most of his at-bats, he earned a call-up to MLB after just seven games in 2023 when he posted a .559 on-base percentage.
Through his first 15 games in MLB, Neto was plunked seven times, the most in as many games dating back to 1901. The young shortstop isn’t trying to get hit, but rather do his job by any means necessary, via Jeff Fletcher of the O.C. Register:
“My teammates say ‘Get out of the way, get out of the way,’” Neto said. “But as long as I’m getting on base for (Mike) Trout and (Shohei) Ohtani, I’m doing my job.”
Neto has posted a .263 batting average through 57 at-bats, but his seven hit-by-pitch free passes have him sitting on a very on-par with his college approach, .354 OBP:
Neto said he has always preferred to stand close to the plate, which is probably the main reason why he gets hit so much.
“That’s the way I’ve always been hitting my whole life,” Neto said. “I don’t know what the pitchers think. Maybe they are trying to establish the inner half and they miss their spot trying to be perfect. And the ball ends up hitting me. It’s nothing new.”
Of course, the bean balls aren’t a sustainable way to get on base, and he’ll need to find ways to make things happen, a sentiment that the Angels coaching staff echoed when discussing Neto’s historic feat:
Manager Phil Nevin said he’s OK with Neto’s approach because he’s got padding on “his vital parts,” but he also wouldn’t mind his shortstop playing it a little safer.
“It would be alright if he gets out of the way and gets a hit,” Nevin said. “That would be better.”
However Neto makes it work, and the Angels will welcome positive results. The hope is that in that he can stay healthy so they won’t need to find a new shortstop because of an injury.
Angels ‘in a good place’ after April performance
The Angels offense ranks within the top 10 in MLB and has registered a top-five hard-hit rate, both incredible recipes for success when looking at predictive success of an offense.
The additions of Hunter Renfroe’s power bat alongside Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Taylor Ward, and others are doing all they can by scoring 5.1 runs per game heading into play on May 2.
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