CLEVELAND — Rookie shortstop With each game he plays in the Major Leagues, Zach Neto becomes more and more at ease, and it’s beginning to show.
In his first 27 games, Neto, the team’s No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has excelled, particularly defensively. He has recently been showing more power though, as evidenced by his first career home run against the Astros on Tuesday, a double off the left-field wall on Friday, a home run on Saturday, and a double against the Guardians on Sunday.
In the box, I’m beginning to feel like myself, Neto said. “I made the necessary adjustments and realized what I was doing incorrectly. It’s important to maintain my swing now that I believe I’ve discovered it.
The 22-year-old Neto is undoubtedly confident, and it shows in the way he approaches the game. Despite being the first player selected in the 2022 Draft to make it to the Majors and having only played 44 games in the Minors before being called up, he hasn’t appeared outclassed.
Although he dials it down with two strikes, Neto, who has a.250 average and a.704 OPS, has demonstrated that his unconventional leg kick can be effective in the Major Leagues. He claimed that it is simply one more thing he has done to disprove his critics, something he has fought with throughout his entire career. This includes the fact that he wasn’t a great prospect after high school and had to establish himself at Campbell University in North Carolina.
“People saying things like my leg kick wouldn’t work just gives me more confidence to prove people wrong,” Neto said. “My whole life I’ve been proving people wrong. So to be able to go out here on the big stage and show people that I can do it and I can do it the way I got here, it just shows a lot.”
On Saturday, José Ramrez was protected from sliding back into second on a pick-off play, a double play was initiated on a powerful shot up the middle, and Neto made a diving catch that he bobbled before throwing to first for a double play. On Sunday, Neto made his second error.
The daily shortstop for the Angels, according to manager Phil Nevin, Neto has strengthened the defense and demonstrates maturity beyond his years.
“He’s more and more impressive each day,” Nevin said. “The fast-learning curve he’s on. The things he was able to do in the Minor Leagues in a short time. We heard such great things and then seeing it now come out in the big league level. The game [Saturday] was kind of, I wouldn’t say its coming out party because we’ve seen it for a little while, but a really impressive game. His confidence has always been high and now we’re seeing it on the field.”
His performance also won even veteran Guardians manager Terry Francona, who revealed after the game on Saturday that he had first heard of Neto the previous year when Cleveland had been keeping an eye on him for the Draft. While the Guardians held the No. 16 pick, the Angels selected Neto with the No. 13 overall pick.
“I think if you talk to our [front office], I think they broke our hearts when they took him ahead [of us],” Francona said. “Probably shouldn’t say that, but I think he was really well thought of coming out of Campbell.”