The Los Angeles Angels entered the year without a legitimate shortstop. Gio Urshela was the Opening Day starter, and he entered the year with just 43 appearances at the position. Luis Rengifo and David Fletcher are both more second basemen than shortstops, and both struggled mightily offensively to start.
This forced the Angels to promote Zach Neto straight from AA to the majors despite just 44 games of minor league experience. The 2022 first round pick was expected to play every day from the start, and despite a bit of a rough beginning, he's turned into one of the most important players on this team.
LA Angels record with and without Zach Neto make him the ultimate X-Factor
Things began a bit slowly for Neto as an Angel who recorded just one hit in his first 16 at-bats. The Angels as a team did not really click with him in the lineup in the first ten games he was there as the team went 4-6 in those games. Since then, when Neto has played, it's been a different story.
Overall, the Angels are 38-29 when Zach Neto appears in a game for the Angels. Nine games over .500 would have them just one game outside of the final playoff spot in the American League.
Without him, the Angels have gone just 20-31. 11 games under .500 would have them tied with the Tigers for the fourth-worst team in the AL and a bottom-ten team in all of baseball.
With him they're a borderline playoff team, without him they're one of the worst teams in the league. The difference is stark. It's easy to see why. Neto is a player who puts up professional at-bats consistently despite his young age while the rest of this team struggles to do so, especially in big spots. Neto is also a terrific defender at a premium position, something that Luis Rengifo, even with his hot streak offensively, cannot say.
The Angels were on fire with Zach Neto right in the thick of things both offensively and defensively. He shined in Texas and helped the Angels take three of four there. Unfortunately, the Texas series is also when Neto hurt his oblique and had to miss a month. The Angels unsurprisingly went 7-14 in his absence then.
Neto returned for the second half and was starting to get going before hurting his back and missing some time with that. The Angels went 7-5 in games Neto played in the second half, and are 6-9 without him. This includes the final three games, all losses, when Neto clearly wasn't right. Neto is expected to be out for a while with his back injury, so the Angels will have to find a way to win without him for them to make an unlikely run to the postseason.