The Los Angeles Angels have one of the most talented lineups on paper in all of baseball, led by the likes of Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Hunter Renfroe.
However, the team has been looking for a spark and experimented with using Zach Neto in the leadoff spot this past week. The rookie shortstop made his MLB debut last month as the Angels were in search of more offense at the bottom of the order.
Neto supplanted Taylor Ward, who has been L.A.’s primary leadoff hitter since last season. The 29-year-old enjoyed a breakout year in 2022 but hasn’t been able to replicate that success so far.
But after a productive week at the plate, Angels manager Phil Nevin is moving Ward back to the top of the lineup, via Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group:
Nevin said he “went back and forth” on whether he should put Taylor Ward back in the leadoff spot or continue with Zach Neto, but he decided to go back to Ward.
Nevin added that the Angels are at their best when Ward is hitting well, and that Neto being bumped to No. 9 essentially gives the team a second leadoff hitter:
“I think when we’re at our best, when Wardo is going well, is to have him there,” Nevin said. “Neto really in that nine spot is kind of almost another leadoff spot once we start rolling through this.”
Ward hit .306 with a .906 on-base plus slugging over the past week, but for the season, is batting .248/.342/.368 with four doubles, four home runs and 15 RBI in 36 games.
As for Neto, he is hitting .240/.329/.293 with four doubles and seven RBI through 22 games. The 22-year-old has produced at every level of the Minor Leagues, so the Angels are hoping it’s just a matter of time until he breaks out.
Angels’ Zach Neto dealing with laceration on right middle finger
Neto suffered a cut on his right middle finger while trying to bunt and was held out of Sunday’s series finale against the Texas Rangers, but returned to the Angels lineup on Monday.
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