Zach Neto doesn’t come from a big school known for its talent for churning out prospects. Campbell University in North Carolina has never had a first-round pick. Cedric Mullins of the Baltimore Orioles is easily the most well-known player to come from the school, and he was selected in the 13th round in 2015. Neto may be at a small school, but he has caught the attention of many scouts. Let’s take a closer look at the Fighting Camels’ best hitter.
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Zach Neto, Shortstop, Campbell University (NC)
Weight: 190 lbs.
2021 Stats: 44 G, .405/.488/.746, 12 HR, 12 SB, 50 R, 58 RBI
2022 Stats: 50 G, .398/.506/.769, 16 HR, 15 SB, 59 R, 49 RBI
Neto came from Miami Coral Park Senior High School in 2020 but only got to play three games for Campbell that season due to the pandemic. Instead, the right-hander played 40 games in the South Florida Collegiate League with Delray Beach. He immediately proved he had uncommon talent at the dish slashing .439/.537/.765 in the wood bat league. He continued to rake when he was able to play full-time for the Fighting Camels as you can see from the stats above.
The Florida native can flat hit. He has an exaggerated leg kick and uppercut swing as he consistently tried to turn on fastballs. So far, it has worked as Neto has an exceptionally quick bat. What you may notice from the video above is that he doesn’t use the extreme leg kick when he expects an offspeed pitch. Even if he is fooled, he keeps his hands back well and can adjust. He had a 17/30 BB/K rate in 2021 and improved to 36/19 this season as his pitch recognition has taken a big leap forward. Some people may question the competition Neto faces. However, he has succeeded at wood bat leagues in Florida and on the Cape.
Defensively, he can play anywhere on the dirt. He has been at shortstop almost exclusively this season except for four relief appearances. He has decent range and an excellent arm as he can hit 93 mph on the mound. His hands and footwork are also good, and he is smooth around the bag turning double plays. His aggressiveness makes up for his average speed, and Neto has no problem running.
While he is a solid defender at shortstop now, many scouts think he will be better at second base, or even third. His arm plays anywhere, but while his range is average now, Neto will likely lose a step with some added muscle on his frame. Time will tell if his high leg kick and jittery pre-pitch motions at the plate will be viable as he moves up. Neto may have to quiet down his approach at the plate as the pitching improves at the higher levels.
Pro Comparison: Josh Donaldson
The former catcher also employs a leg kick even after over 1,200 games in the majors. Neto has a similar build to J.D. and may move positions early on in his career like Donaldson did. The Campbell University prospect may match the Yankees third baseman in plate discipline as well. Gary Sheffield also made it work to much success in the majors as he was very active in the batter’s box before the pitch. Neto has improved his eye significantly and can keep the unorthodox approach if his gains are sustainable.
Draft Prediction: Cleveland Guardians, Round 1, Pick 16
The Guardians have not drafted a college hitter in the first round since they took Bradley Zimmer and Mike Papi in 2014 at 21st and 38th overall respectively. This year changes that as their offense has been lacking as they were below league average in OPS from 2019-2021 and are barely above it this season so far. With Jose Ramirez in the lineup for years to come, Cleveland needs to grab another hitter who can put the ball over the fence. Myles Straw and Steven Kwan are solid players but putting Neto with Ramirez and Josh Naylor would go a long way in getting the Guardians offense into the top 10.
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Main Image Credit: https://gocamels.com/sports/baseball/roster/zach-neto/8991