Zach Neto never heard of Campbell University in North Carolina until the baseball coaching staff reached out to him during the recruiting process, he said. The Miami native quickly grew interested in Campbell after speaking with coach Justin Haire and hearing his vision for the program.
Neto committed to Campbell as a senior in high school in 2018. He believed Campbell was the best place for him to develop his skills in hopes of pursuing a professional career after college.
The decision to attend Campbell has paid off for Neto over the last 2½ years. He performed well throughout his sophomore season to earn Big South Player of the Year and All-American honors. He then thrived in 16 games in the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer.
Neto’s performance last year has positioned him as one of the top players in college baseball. Scouts also view him as a top prospect for the 2022 MLB draft, projecting him as a potential first-round pick.
Although Neto has made significant strides to develop into a top draft prospect at Campbell, Neto doesn’t focus on the attention.
“I need to keep my head where it needs to be, whether I am on the field or off it,” Neto said. “I have to control the controllable. This year will be a big year with the draft, and I am trying not to worry about that.”
After playing in three games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Neto was an everyday player as a sophomore last year. He hit .405 with 17 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs and 58 RBIs in 173 at-bats in 44 games last season. He stole 12 bases and showed good plate discipline, drawing 17 walks while striking out 30 times.
In the Cape Cod League, Neto batted .304 with four doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs in 46 at-bats in 16 games.
Neto is a 6-foot, 195-pound right-handed-hitting shortstop with a short, compact swing that allows him to barrel up pitches and hit for average and power. He uses a leg kick as a timing mechanism and shows plenty of feel at the plate. He is a confident and disciplined hitter who doesn’t strike out a ton.
Defensively, Neto has above-average athleticism and plenty of range at shortstop. He also has played first base, second base and third base at Campbell. Neto, who serves as a relief pitcher at Campbell, has solid arm strength.
Some scouts believe Neto profiles best at second base. But Neto’s skills and athleticism give him a chance to remain at shortstop long-term.
“I am a pretty good five-tool player,” Neto said. “I feel like I’m a really good defender, I’m a really good hitter, and I can steal bases. For me, I just can do whatever a coach asks me to do at a high level.”
Neto is a complete player and will play a key role for Campbell this spring. The Camels posted a 37-18 record and made their third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance last year.
The Camels have made five NCAA tournament appearances in the program’s history. They have never advanced to an NCAA Super Regional, though.
This season, Neto believes the Camels have the pieces to make a deep tournament run and potentially an appearance in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
“I am looking forward to seeing what we can do and proving a lot of people wrong,” Neto said. “Hopefully, we can make a run to Omaha.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.