With the 2022 MLB amateur draft approaching on July 17, we will continue taking looks at some potential draft prospects for the Royals at #9. I last wrote about Kevin Parada, a catcher out of Georgia Tech that seems to be the complete package at the dish. Today, we’ll look at a more advanced defender with similar offensive upside: Zach Neto.
Neto hails from Miami, Florida and played his high school ball at Miami Coral Park. Despite a stellar track record that included three all-district selections in a very competitive state for baseball, Neto went unselected in the 2019 MLB draft.
Neto began his collegiate baseball career at Campbell University in the Big South conference in 2020. In the shortened season, Campbell played just 16 games before the Covid-19 shutdown and Neto received scant playing time. As the backup for incumbent starting shortstop Collin Wolf, Neto started just one game at short and made another appearance as a pinch hitter in a blowout. He went 1-5 with a HBP. He also made an appearance on the mound, throwing two perfect innings with three strikeouts in Campbell’s last game before the shutdown.
That summer, Neto played for Delray Beach in the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League. He tore up the league, playing in 40 games that summer, playing mostly second and third base, and slashing .439/.537/.765 with ten doubles and six homers. He also got more action on the mound, pitching in ten games that summer. He was effectively wild, tossing to a 4.50 ERA in 24 innings. He struck out 29 without allowing a homer, but also walked 12, plunked ten, and uncorked six wild pitches.
With Wolf still entrenched as Campbell’s nominal shortstop for the 2021 season, Neto played a two-way utility role, drawing starts at each infield spot as well as 21 innings on the mound. He carried over his summer ball success at the plate, putting together a breakout campaign for the Camels. Starting at the beginning of April and carrying through May, Neto put together a nifty 20 game hitting streak, with 15 of the games being multi-hit. He had just two 0-fer’s in Campbell’s last 32 games. Campbell entered the NCAA Tournament as a three-seed in the Starkville Regional. They went 2-2, falling in the Regional final to eventual national champions Mississippi State. Neto had a strong postseason at the dish, going 5-16 with two homers and four walks. Overall, Neto slashed .405/.488/.746 with 17 doubles, 12 homers, and 12 stolen bases in 213 plate appearances. This earned him Big South Player of the Year honors. In his mound action, he posted a 3.43 ERA, but the control problems remained obvious. He struck out just 16 batters, walked 15, plunked seven, and threw five wild pitches. He pitched less often as the season progressed, logging just three innings on the mound in May.
Neto once again played summer ball, this time for Brewster in the Cape Cod League. He once again excelled, playing 16 games and slashing .304/.439/.587.
In the Cape Cod League last summer Zach Neto showcased a good blend of power and contact— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) February 1, 2022
Preseason All-America First Team honors pic.twitter.com/otkmJdxP75
Expectations were high for Neto entering the 2022 season. He took over as Campbell’s starting shortstop. He hit well in non-conference play and, just as in 2021, caught fire when the weather warmed. He put together a 29-game hit streak that included 15 multi-hit games, and he only had one game all season in which he failed to reach base.
Zach Neto quietly posted some of the best batted ball/swing data in the country this year while also having one of the bat speed/attack angle combinations.— (@mason_mcrae) June 7, 2022
When you’re constantly hitting the ball 100+ mph between 25 and 40 degrees, you know you’ve got elite bat speed. pic.twitter.com/KE3EYux9we
BIG TIME PLAYERS. MAKE BIG TIME PLAYS. IN BIG TIME GAMES.— 11Point7: The College Baseball Podcast (@11point7) May 28, 2022
Zach Neto 2 run tank and Camels strike first pic.twitter.com/zKuQOXuLCx
The Camels once again entered the NCAA Tournament as a three-seed, this time in the Knoxville Regional with #1 overall seed Tennessee. They went just 1-2, bludgeoning Georgia Tech in the opener but losing their next two. Once again, Neto shined when the lights were brightest, going 7-13 with three doubles and three walks. Overall, Neto slashed .407/.514/.769 with 23 doubles and 15 homers in 256 plate appearances. He also swiped 19 bags and was caught just once. Neto was once again named Big South Player of the Year. His strikeout and walk numbers greatly improved between ‘21 and ‘22: his K rate dropped from 14.1% to 7.4% while his walks increased from 8.0% to 15.2%. He didn’t get much run as a pitcher this year, making just four appearances and only one after March. That’s not to say he didn’t have his moments though:
Zach Neto, Filthy Breaking Balls.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 3, 2022
And, K Celebration.
Not bad for an All American Shortstop. pic.twitter.com/LgSKuDYv30
Neto shot up draft boards with his big spring. Here are his rankings from various publications:
MLB Pipeline: 17
D1Baseball ($): 16 (among college players)
Keith Law ($): 9
Kiley McDaniel ($): 12
Prospects Live: 10
Royals Farm Report ($): 15
The first thing that jumps out when watching Neto hit: a massive leg kick. It looks like he’s loading up to hit in slow pitch softball.
Campbell SS Zach Neto is *really* making up for lost time this weekend. Three homers in two games this weekend. Average up to .400.— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) March 13, 2022
Steals bases, walks, slugs... the kid even pitches for his school.
He'll be a high pick in July. pic.twitter.com/kovkHVuIe0
With two strikes, however, he quiets it down greatly.
Zach Neto *just* missed joining the HR parade with two strikes on him. He's taken his fair share of walks tonight and has shown good plate discipline. Like the raw power in his bat, should start translating in-game in short order. pic.twitter.com/zYbwJjdQHB— Tyler Jennings (@TylerJennings24) April 23, 2022
He’s shown great feel for contact and hits the ball hard, though he may be more of a doubles-hitter at the next level. Neto is also very athletic in the field and, though his arm is not superlative, it should be good enough to stick at short.
Zach Neto made plays all over the field tonight. Tremendous athleticism from the All-American SS pic.twitter.com/5Fzg4AIMtR— Evan Budrovich (@evanbud) February 26, 2022
Neto is a very intriguing possibility for the Royals at #9. He’s the toolsy-type the Royals love, and he’s proven himself offensively in summer ball and postseason play that he can do it with wood bats and against tough competition. Even if he does not develop into a superstar hitter, his speed, defense up the middle, and solid bat-to-ball skills give him a decent floor.
What do you think of Zach Neto at #9?
This poll is closed