Has Angels shortstop Zach Neto met our realistic expectations?
The Los Angeles Angels took a risk when they promoted Zach Neto from AA Rocket City. We could all see the potential in Spring Training and in the series at Angel Stadium before the season against the Dodgers, but still, he was so inexperienced.
Neto was the Angels first-round pick in 2022. He was well deserving of the pick and it felt like he was going to do great things, but nobody expected him to be up this early. Neto earned the call-up less than a year after being drafted. That simply doesn't happen in Major League Baseball.
The Angels had a need for a shortstop, and Neto has answered the bell. In my opinion, he's been even better than I expected.
LA Angels shortstop Zach Neto has exceeded our realistic expectations
What got Zach Neto to the Major Leagues so quickly was undoubtedly his bat. The Angels did need a shortstop to help defensively as well, but the Halos had guys like Livan Soto and Andrew Velazquez in the minors who are more than capable defensively. Neto's bat is what separated him, and it's been really impressive to watch.
Neto only played 44 games in the minors, but slashed .322/.408/.529 with eight home runs and 37 RBI. He obviously wouldn't be expected to do that at this level, but the bat was so impressive even in a small sample.
His slash line at the Major League level isn't anything special. Neto's slashing .246/.314/.358 with two home runs and 14 RBI. Evaluating a player like Neto is when watching the games actually comes into play. The stats don't jump off the page, but everything about this man when watching him play screams shortstop of the future.
Neto's approach is one you'd expect to see from a veteran. He rarely chases, rarely swings and misses, and uses all fields. Neto ranks in the 90th percentile in chase rate, the 83rd percentile in whiff rate, and the 74th percentile in K% according to baseball savant. These marks are impressive for any player, let alone a rookie.
We've seen glimpses of the power potential from Neto. His first career home run came off of Framber Valdez, a star, hit to the opposite field.
Neto got off to a slow start, recording just one hit in his first 16 at-bats spanning four games. Since then, he's slashing .280/.346/.409. While Neto hasn't drawn many walks, his approach would tell you that the walks are coming. He's also been hit by seven (!) pitches already.
I'd like for Neto to lift the ball a bit more than he has, but that will come. Remember, he's 22! He isn't turning 23 until the end of January!
What's stood out to me the most has been his defense. Neto ranks in the 87th percentile in outs above average, and he's been the best defender in this Angels infield since the moment he got called up thanks in large part to plays like these.
I did not expect this kind of defense, and I did not expect Neto's approach at the plate to be as good as it is. He has the wild leg kick until he makes an adjustment with two strikes. He has the swag stars have, and the work ethic to continue to improve. The IQ is off the charts, and I couldn't be more impressed by what I've seen from Zach Neto.
I don't know if he's going to win AL Rookie of the Year with guys like Masataka Yoshida, Hunter Brown, Bryce Miller, and even Yennier Cano in the mix, but Neto is proving day after day that he's a part of this team's future. He will be the shortstop for a very long time.