Inside Look at Zach Neto’s Rookie Campaign

Zach Neto

Zach Neto was another Angels prospect who was called up to the big leagues this past season, just a year after being drafted. Despite an injury-riddled season with offensive numbers that do not excite on the surface, he can be an exciting player to watch on the Angels in 2024. The 2022 13th overall pick got the call-up and debuted on Jackie Robinson Day in 2023 with just 44 games of minor league experience. Although he put up impressive numbers in those 44 games, it was a surprise nonetheless. 

On the surface, his numbers were pedestrian. Neto appeared in 84 games due to oblique and back injuries and hit .225 with a .685 OPS. After a slow first week in his career, Neto started to show why he was called up so early, hitting .278 with a .811 OPS in his next 48 games before sustaining an oblique injury that sidelined him for a month. Once he returned from the oblique injury, Neto appeared in 29 games the rest of the season and was never the same, hitting .174 with a .557 OPS and missed more time in August with a back injury. One thing that Neto excelled in, though, was getting hit. Neto was hit by a pitch 16 times this year, five coming in his first seven games. Despite only playing in basically half of a season, Neto’s 16 hit-by-pitches ranked seventh in the American league.

Neto has a high leg kick in his swing, and many questioned how that would translate at the big league level, but it did not appear to be a problem. His strikeout rate was 23.4%, which is just one percent higher than the league average, and his Chase% was three percent lower than the league average at 25.2%, according to Baseball Savant. However, Neto did have some swing-and-miss to his game, with a 28.5 Whiff%, which was four percent higher than the league average, according to Baseball Savant. The barrel and hard hit rates both were above the league average at 8.8 Barrel% and 40.3 HardHit%, according to Baseball Savant. These metrics signify that he will likely improve next season, barring any injuries.

An interesting note about his rookie season is that he struggled against starting pitchers more each time through the order. Typically, players’ stats improve each time they face a starting pitcher in a game, but Neto was an exception. Neto hit .203 with a .644 OPS the first time facing a starting pitcher, .221 with a .567 OPS the second time, and .111 with a .398 OPS the third time, according to Baseball Reference. If Neto has a healthy 2024 and plays an entire season, these numbers will likely improve, but it is definitely something to keep an eye on. Defensively, Neto proved he was MLB-ready. According to Baseball Savant, he ranked in the 73rd percentile in Range (Outs Above Average) and 76th percentile in Arm Strength. Neto also had a .979 fielding percentage, with all of his innings coming at shortstop. The 22-year-old did both, making the routine plays as well as highlight reel plays that proved that he could be the shortstop for the future of the Angels.

Jack Janes

Journalism major at the University of La Verne. Played college baseball at Fullerton College and the University of La Verne. Also write for Inside The Rink.

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