Angels’ Zach Neto Makes His Unorthodox Approach Work

Shortstop Zach Neto made an unorthodox approach at the plate work at Campbell and in the Cape Cod League. It also led to the Angels drafting him 13th overall in 2022.

The Angels aren’t about to change Neto’s approach now.

The 21-year-old righthanded hitter has such a high leg kick, with a slight pause at its apex, that he resembles a righthanded pitcher lifting his left leg before he delivers the ball.

But with two strikes, Neto switches to a short stride and toe tap with his front foot, a transition that seems jarring to the uninitiated. His two-strikes swing is just as aggressive and features the same natural upper cut. The only difference is less pre-pitch movement.

“From the outside looking in, you may think it’s drastic, but to Zach, it’s just a normal movement,” Angels minor league field coordinator Joe Kruzel said. “It’s something he understands, has a good feel for and has had a lot of success with.

“I think you trust in the player’s knowledge of himself, and then we’ll see where he takes it from there.”

Neto, the Big South Conference player of the year in 2021 and 2022, hit .407/.514/.769 with 15 home runs in 53 games as a junior at Campbell. He had flashed his potency with a wood bat the summer before by hitting .304 with a 1.026 OPS on the Cape, where the league average OPS was .696.

The Angels promoted Neto aggressively after signing him for a well below-slot $3.5 million. After a seven-game stint with High-A Tri-City, he was promoted to Double-A Rocket City, where he hit .320/.382/.492 with four homers and nine doubles in 30 games.

The 6-foot, 185-pound Neto has a natural upper cut, and his bat speed and ability to make consistent contact has resulted in good pull-side power.

Neto was one of the best college hitters in the 2022 draft, and the Angels believe he has the defensive skills to stick at shortstop. He has quick hands and feet, good instincts and a strong, accurate arm. He hit 93 mph as a part-time reliever at Campbell.

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