The Los Angeles Angels entered the 2023 season without a primary shortstop. Gio Urshela was expected to play there most of the time, but he's really a third baseman. Luis Rengifo can play there in a pinch, but has never really been a good enough defender to be a regular shortstop. David Fletcher can defend with the best of them, but he wasn't hitting at all.
The lack of a shortstop was a big reason the Angels felt pressure to promote 2022 first round pick Zach Neto as quickly as they did. Neto was unbelievable in the minors and they drafted him when they did with a quick call-up in mind, but promoting him less than a year after being drafted felt like more of a panic move than something they had planned out.
The Angels promoted Neto in April while the team was in Boston, and the young shortstop never looked back. He proved to be a key piece for the Angels this season, and is a player Angels fans have quickly fallen in love with.
Zach Neto deserves a B grade for his 2023 season
Zach Neto came up to the majors after just 44 games played in the minors. Not a single one of those games even came in AAA. The numbers were off the charts, but 44 games is such a small sample. Neto proved his doubters wrong by settling in beautifully as the Angels regular shortstop.
Neto got off to a slow start offensively with just one hit in his first 16 at-bats, but he showed tremendous patience and plate discipline which was impressive for an inexperienced rookie. In 48 games after those first 16 at-bats, Neto had an .828 OPS with six home runs in 158 at-bats. The Angels were 29-22 in those games, and he was on an absolute tear before landing on the IL for the first time while the Angels were in Texas.
Neto's injury proved to be costly as the Angels stumbled into the break and he never really found a way to consistently remain on the field. He played 12 games after the all-star break, the Angels went 7-5 in those games, but then he landed on the IL once again. He returned once again in September when the team was out of it and struggled, making his end of season slash line nothing spectacular.
Neto ended his season slashing .225/.308/.377 with nine home runs and 34 RBI, but I do believe his season was more impressive than the stats indicate for a number of reasons. The team went 43-41 with him and 30-48 without him. That doesn't happen by accident. He's a young leader, an awesome defender, and a smart hitter.
For someone as inexperienced as he was, I thought Neto held his own for the Angels. He was the spark plug the team was lacking, and showed a lot of promise on both sides of the ball. Angels fans should be excited about him heading into 2024.