When the Los Angeles Angels drafted shortstop Zach Neto in 2022 with the 13th overall pick, some people may have thought it was a nice story of a kid being drafted out of Campbell University – a school that is not exactly known for sending players to the majors.

But Neto is not just a nice story – and no team would waste a first-round pick on a nice story. Neto was a star for the Camels, finishing his three-year career with a .403/.500/.751 slash line with 27 homers, 108 RBI and 31 steals in 100 games and 475 plate appearances and helping lead the team to the NCAA tournament in 2021 and 2022.

Little did people know, however, that within a year of being drafted, Neto would be playing shortstop for the Angels.

The Fast Track

After being drafted and signing with the Angels, Neto was assigned to High-A Tri-City, where he played in a total of seven games before moving up to Double-A Rocket City, where he slashed .320/.382/.492 with four home runs, 23 RBI, and four steals. Neto started the 2023 season at Rocket City but was there for only seven games as he slashed .444/.559/.815 with three home runs and 10 RBI.

Neto didn’t even have time to find a place to sleep while at Triple-A Salt Lake City as his stint there lasted only four games before he was recalled to the majors by the Angels.  Less than a year after the draft, he was starting for the Angels after entering the season ranked as the 53rd best prospect by Baseball America, 89 by MLB.com and 47th by Baseball Prospectus

Career Statistics

2023 84 38 9 34 5 .225 .308 .377 86
162 AVG 73 17 66 10 .225 .308 .377 86

With Zach Neto having no issues facing minor league pitching (.321/.410/.551 slash line with 10 homers and 40 RBI in 48 games), the Angels decided to hand over the shortstop job to Neto and let him learn at the highest level.

The rookie held his own the first two months on the job, slashing .250/.350/.327 with four RBI in April before hitting three bombs and driving in 14 runs with a .231/.294/.396 slash line in May. By June, Neto was finding his groove at the plate by slashing .355/.444/.710 with three homers through 12 games before being sidelined with an oblique strain that kept him out of the lineup for a month.

When he returned, he struggled at the plate before being sidelined again for another month with lower back inflammation. By the time he returned in September, all he could do at the plate was slash .169/.286/.262 with one home run. It was a disappointing end to a season that was showing a lot of promise in June.

Inside the Numbers

Zach Neto is not going to be a power hitter in the true sense of the word. The ball does not jump off his bat. Last year his Avg. EV was 89.1 mph, barely above the MLB average of 88.4 mph.

However, he does have good contact skills and makes solid contact. His slugging percentage in college was .751 and during his brief stint in the minors, it was .529. His Barrel% was 8.8% (MLB average is 6.9%) last season, his Sweet Spot% was 33.8% (average is 33.1%) and his Hard Hit% was 40.3% (average is 36.3%).

However, there are some holes in Neto’s game and he will need to address them in order to take the next step and become a consistent force at the plate. Basically, he has to improve against breaking balls and offspeed pitches.

While he hit .257 with a .447 slugging percentage against the fastball last year, he was .163/.228 against breaking pitches and .227/.227 versus offspeed pitches.

He’s Undervalued

Neto is the true definition of an up-and-coming dynasty player. Right now his value is really low. He is rostered in only 8% of ESPN leagues and 14% of Yahoo leagues. But those leagues don’t really cater to dynasty leagues. Heading over to Fantrax, however, you will see he is rostered by 82% of leagues.

If you are new to dynasty leagues, you are probably going to take another shortstop first as there are plenty who offer more power and more speed right now. Heck, depending on what ranking you want to look at, he is ranked below Tommy Edman. I think we have seen the best of Tommy Edman. We have not seen the best of Zach Neto.

Will Neto be a star this year at the plate? Most of the projections I see have seen him slashing in the range of .250/.320/.415. That may be closer to right this season. But what about next year and the year after that?

Looking into my crystal ball, I see a player who can hit close to 30 doubles and 15 homers to boost his slugging percentage with 10 steals and offer a solid slash line of .285/.350/.435. That is a solid dynasty player and one I want on my team.