Angels Make Bold Move, Promote Zach Neto To Majors

The Angels announced this afternoon they were selecting the contract of shortstop Zach Neto, making the 2022 first-round pick the first player from the 2022 draft class to reach the majors. 

Neto, who ranked as the No. 16 player in the 2022 draft class produced massive numbers throughout his Campbell career, and was eventually selected with the No. 13 overall pick and signed for a $3.5 million bonus. 

While he was just the sixth college hitter taken in the draft, Neto quickly improved his stock after a strong pro debut in 2022. The Angels assigned Neto to High-A Tri-City for his pro debut, and then promoted him to Double-A Rocket City after just seven games. He more than lived up to the aggressive promotion, and hit .320/.382/.492 in 30 games, with four home runs, nine doubles and four stolen bases. 

That performance made him one of the biggest up-arrow prospects from the 2022 draft class, and he entered the 2023 season ranked as the No. 53 prospect in baseball and the No. 2 prospect in the Angels system, behind only catcher Logan O’Hoppe.

The Angels started Neto at Double-A to begin the 2023 season, and again needed just seven games before promoting him: this time to the big leagues. Neto demolished Southern League pitching in his brief stint at the level this season, where he was 1.7 years younger than the league average hitter, and slashed .444/.559/.815 with three home runs, six walks and eight strikeouts.

Neto employs an unorthodox swing at the plate, which features significant moving parts and a sizeable leg kick, but he has consistently shown the requisite bat speed, pitch recognition and bat-to-ball skills to make it work. He’s a career .322/.408/.529 hitter in his very brief minor league career, and has a chance to develop into a plus hitter. Neto has a well-rounded toolset and should be able to impact the game across the board. 

He is not a huge power hitter, but he has the barrel accuracy and bat speed to make the most of the solid raw power he does possess, and he’s an above-average runner with reliable hands and actions at shortstop that should allow him to be a solid-average defender at the position. A former two-way player in college, Neto has an easy plus arm that will be an asset for him on throws from the hole, and while amateur scouts thought there was some chance he could turn into a utility player who handled a number of infield positions, he’s played a solid shortstop in an everyday role thus far in his pro career. 

The Angels have been aggressive with their assignments with their prospects, and Neto is the earliest success story of that process. In addition to promoting Neto to Double-A in his first pro season, Los Angeles assigned No. 9 OF Nelson Rada to Low-A Inland Empire as a 17-year-old and No. 4 C Edgar Quero to Double-A Rocket City. Rada is the youngest player in full season ball and Quero skipped over High-A after hitting .312/.435/.530 with 35 doubles, 17 home runs and 12 stolen bases in Low-A in 2022.

The Angels also assigned No. 10 RHP Ben Joyce straight to Double-A during his 2022 pro debut last summer, and they quickly moved another 2022 draftee, OF/1B Tucker Flint to Double-A to start the 2023 season after just 30 games in Low-A in 2022.

In addition to having the first big leaguer from the 2022 draft class in Neto, the Angels are one of just two teams (along with the Braves with third rounder Dylan Dodd) who have already produced a big leaguer from the 2021 class: righthander Chase Silseth, an 11th round pick.

Of the other 15 four-year college players drafted in the 2022 first round, only Brooks Lee has reached Double-A.

Neto could have made the Angels eligible for a potential Prospect Promotion Incentive draft pick had he been called up a few days earlier. He cannot reach 172 days of MLB service based on his callup date, as he’s slated to be on the roster for 170 days if he remains on the MLB roster the rest of the season.

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