O'Hoppe, Neto powering Halos' youth movement

September 15th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger's Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click hereAnd subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- As Angels manager Phil Nevin likes to point out, shortstop  was in college at Campbell University in 2023, and catcher  was at Double-A when they acquired him at last year’s Trade Deadline for outfielder Brandon Marsh. 

Despite being rookies, they’ve quickly become indispensable for the Angels, and it gives the club some optimism heading into next year. Nevin said there’s a noticeable difference when the two are in the lineup, and that their injuries were hard to overcome. O’Hoppe missed four months with a torn labrum in his left shoulder he sustained in late April, before returning on Aug. 18. Neto missed 21 games with a left oblique strain he sustained in mid-June and another 33 games with a lower back strain before returning to action on Monday.

“I've said it a million times, but when O’Hoppe showed up last September, it was instant leadership,” Nevin said. “He took over catchers’ meetings, he took over pitchers’ meetings. He's that type of frontline leader. And if you want to say that’s been lacking here, it has, and he’s someone who can take over that role. And Neto can emerge into that as well. There's a lot of leadership by example, the way he works, the way he goes about his business, the energy he brings.”

Neto’s impact can easily be seen just by looking at the club’s record: 39-31 when he plays vs. 29-48 when he doesn’t. The Angels are 15-22 when O'Hoppe plays, but those results are skewed as he returned to an injury-plagued roster and the team out of contention. 

“If you look at our injuries issue, you can pinpoint really what that meant to us on the entire season as a whole,” Nevin said. “Just look no further than our records with them in the lineup. And I can say things without putting too much pressure on them, because they handle it.”

O’Hoppe makes it no secret that he despises losing and a clip of him sitting in the dugout to soak it all in after a loss to the Orioles on Sept. 6 went viral. He’s also frank when discussing his performance. He said he was disgusted with his offense when he first returned from his shoulder injury. But he’s been heating up recently, including going 3-for-4 with two homers and a double on Monday

"I'm feeling better," O'Hoppe said. "It's clicking, and I feel back to where I was before. I've just been shortening things up and staying connected in the right places. And just make sure my head is clear.”

Neto isn’t quite the vocal leader in the clubhouse that O’Hoppe is, but he’s already doing his best to mentor some of the club’s younger players despite being just 22. Neto said he especially hit it off with first baseman Nolan Schanuel, 21, since they are both from South Florida and reached the Majors quickly after being first-round Draft picks.

“I just try to show him the things he should do and shouldn’t do with the vets and all that,” Neto said. “I’m still a rookie but I’ve been through it for most of the season. Whenever he has questions, he can ask me or Logan and we can both try to help as much as possible.”

Neto’s energy is apparent both in the clubhouse and on the field, and he showed it off with three impressive defensive plays on Monday. He made a strong relay throw home to get Ty France as he tried to score from first on a double, made a nice play on a slow roller and another on a hard-hit grounder up the middle that forced him to spin and make a pinpoint throw on the move.

“There's a different feel when he's on the field,” Nevin said. “That's just the way it is. There's certain players that bring instant energy by their presence.”