The Los Angeles Angels selected Campbell University shortstop Zach Neto with their first pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. They used the No. 13 overall pick to land Neto in the first round, adding a hugely talented middle infielder to their system.
The Angels had just one pick in the first two rounds of the draft, after forfeiting their second round pick to the New York Mets by signing free agent pitcher Noah Syndergaard. And after selecting 20 pitchers in the 2021 MLB Draft, they went to a position player to open up 2022.
Neto, 21, put together an incredible Junior season at Campbell. In 53 games played out of the Big South Conference, Neto slashed an absurd .407/.514/.769 for a 1.283 OPS. He had 15 home runs, 50 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, and walked over twice as much (39) as he struck out (19).
In three college seasons, he had a 1.251 OPS, more walks than strikeouts, and a 31-for-36 stolen base success rate. He is also a quality defender at the shortstop position and figures to stick there in MLB play. He doubled as a reliever for Campbell, meaning he certainly has the necessary arm strength.
Neto’s defining feature is a leg kick that has scouts both amazed and slightly concerned about his ability to get to the ball at the professional level, according to MLB scouting reports:
Neto has an unconventional setup with a huge leg kick that includes a pause and an uphill right-handed swing, but he has the exceptional hand-eye coordination to make it work. He looks to drive balls in the air to his pull side yet makes consistent contact despite his approach. He has at least solid bat speed and constantly gets into good position to do damage.
If the college numbers for Neto weren’t impressive enough, he spent the summer of 2021 playing for Brewster in the Cape Cod League. There, he mashed yet again, slashing .304/.439/.587 for a 1.026 OPS over 16 games. He is not a prolific power hitter, but his contact rates are remarkable and he couples it with disciplined base running and an understanding of the strike zone.
Neto also described the fire and passion he brings to a baseball diamond, and how that can be an asset in its own way, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“I would say I’m a swaggy player,” Neto said. “I’m very confident. I bring a lot of energy. I’m Cuban, so we tend to be loud. I just bring a lot of energy and confidence and I’m a very good teammate. I’m a hard worker and just somebody who loves the game.”
“It’s always been a childhood dream of mine to have my name called,” Neto said, “and being here is just a big blessing for me and my family. Just getting picked by L.A., I’d never been to L.A. before, so to experience it with my family and see the city is awesome.”
Next Steps for Neto
The Angels now must sign Neto using their bonus pool funds, and then decide what level he will start at. Typically, a first round pick would start in High-A or Double-A, the former making more sense for Neto given his college’s level of competition.
It will also be interesting to see how quickly Neto rises up the ranks of the Angels’ top 30 prospects. Currently, despite the issues with the shortstop position at the big league level, the Angels have plenty of depth there in the Minors.
Four of the Angels top 10 prospects are shortstops, and five of their top 30 play that position. Their highest-ranked shortstop is their No. 2 overall prospect, Arol Vera. Vera currently plays for Low-A Inland Empire.
The Angels also have shortstops at No. 5 (Denver Guzman, Rookie ACL Angels), No. 7 (Jeremiah Jackson, Double-A Rocket City), No. 9 (Adrian Placencia, Low-A Inland Empire), and No. 21 (Werner Blakely, Low-A Inland Empire).