Quickest draftees to MLB: Where Angels' Neto fits

April 18th, 2023

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The Angels have produced the first big leaguer from each of the last two Drafts. Eleventh-rounder Chase Silseth debuted last May, becoming the first player from the entire 2021 class to reach the Majors. Zach Neto, the 13th overall choice last July, beat all 2022 draftees to The Show when he arrived on Saturday.

Neto played just 44 games in the Minors before advancing to the Majors, the fewest for any drafted position player since Conor Gillaspie's 24 contests after the Giants selected him in 2008's third round. But Gillaspie's callup was part of his signing agreement, so Neto had the shortest Minor League stint before a merit-based promotion since Rickie Weeks' 21 games after the Brewers took him second overall in 2003.

The first first-rounder ever out of Campbell, Neto batted .403/.500/.751 in three college seasons and proved himself with wood bats and against tougher competition in the Cape Cod League. Though he has an unusual setup at the plate, he has exceptional hand-eye coordination that translated into a .322/.408/.529 line in his short stay in the Minors, the majority of which came in Double-A. He homered twice in a Double-A game on Friday before getting told of his callup, and his family didn't believe it at first when he called to share the news.

Ranked No. 82 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, Neto should hit with the Angels. The long-term questions are whether he'll have more than 15-20 home run power and if he can stay at shortstop. He went 1-for-13 against the Red Sox in his first three games.

Most of the time, a pitcher beats a position player to become the first player from a Draft class to reach the Majors. Before Neto, here are the quickest players to the big leagues from the previous decade:

2012: Paco Rodriguez, LHP, Dodgers (second round, No. 82 overall)
2013: Kyle Crockett, LHP, Indians (fourth, No. 111)
2014: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Royals (first, No. 17)
2015: Carson Fulmer, RHP, White Sox (first, No. 8)
2016: Austin Hays, OF, Orioles (third, No. 91)
2017: Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves (first, No. 5)
2018: Nico Hoerner, SS, Cubs (first, No. 24)
2019: Andrew Vaughn, OF, White Sox (first, No. 3)
2020: Garrett Crochet, LHP, White Sox (first, No. 11)
2021: Chase Silseth, RHP, Angels (eleventh, No. 321)

Rodriguez, Finnegan and Crochet all arrived in the Majors in the same year that they were drafted. To get a better inkling of the type of player Neto might become, here are the first hitters to advance to the big leagues from the last 10 Drafts:

2012: Mike Zunino, C, Mariners (first round, No. 3 overall)
2013: Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs (first, No. 2)
2014: Kyle Schwarber, OF/C, Cubs (first, No. 4)
2015: Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros (first, No. 2)
2016: Austin Hays, OF, Orioles (third, No. 91)
2017: Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers (first, No. 9)
2018: Nico Hoerner, SS, Cubs (first, No. 24)
2019: Andrew Vaughn, OF, White Sox (first, No. 3)
2020: Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Tigers (first, No. 1)
2021: no position player thus far

If history is any indication, that list bodes well for Neto and the Angels. The first four players on that list have combined for nine All-Star Game appearances, four World Series championships and seven pennants. Hays is a solid regular, while Hoerner and Vaughn are on the rise and scouts thought Torkelson was the best offensive prospect to come out of college in the last two decades.