ANAHEIM, Calif. — It is pivotal to stress how important Zach Neto is to the Los Angeles Angels. They drafted him with the 13th overall pick in last year’s MLB Draft, and fast tracked him to the big leagues as Neto cruised through the Minor Leagues with ease. Neto’s career numbers in the Minors were impressive, as he boasted a .320 average in 122 at bats for the Rocket City Trash Pandas in 2022 before continuing to rake at the beginning of this season posting a .444 average with 3 home runs in 27 at bats before being called up to the show. At the time, the Angels had a sporadic few weeks piecing together a lot of wins to start the season, before falling into a hole throughout the middle weeks of April. They needed a consistent shortstop in the lineup desperately, which is why they called up Neto after just 201 plate appearances in the minors, as he became the first draft pick from 2022 to debut in the Majors. Neto’s impact was immediate as he started off with daily web gems defensively that helped save some games, before his offensive production increased in late May and early June.
Right before his Oblique Strain (that occurred on June 14th, the second to last game in a pivotal 4-game series vs. the Rangers in Texas) Neto had put together one of the more impressive four game stretches from any Angels player this season. Neto had 2 hits against the Mariners on June 10th, 2 home runs against the Mariners the following day, 2 doubles in the first game of the Rangers series on June 12th, before an epic grand-slam that helped lead the Angels to victory in game two against the Rangers. Following June 13th’s performance, the Angels had a record of 38-31 and Neto was a big part of the early season turnaround.
With Neto returning from his Oblique Strain on Friday night, almost a month later, the Angels have won just 7 total games since his injury and were one game under .500 entering the Astros series on Friday night. Neto understands his importance to the team and was participating in live at-bats in Arizona with a few other Angels players over the All-Star break as he said, “My first major injury in the show was tough, the All-Star break helped, I was able to recover well, everyone here helped me get back quickly”. Neto went 0-5 in Friday night’s game, but he will provide the stability needed on both offense and defense for the Angels to try to piece together some wins once he gets acclimated.
Matt Moore, the Angels productive set-up man was also reinstated from the IL on Friday, a key addition to the team for a hopeful playoff run. Moore boasts an ERA of 1.44 with 21 K’s in 25 innings pitched this season, as he put together an ultra-impressive start to the 2023 campaign before getting injured on May 23rd with a Grade 2 Oblique Strain. Moore was in Arizona over the All-Star break with a few other Angels players including Neto, throwing some bullpens and preparing for his return,
“I was getting reps in, 15-20 pitches usually in pens, threw 26 pitches yesterday. Feeling good today and have just been trying to get my body right. That Arizona climate was a good test for what’s to come and I’m excited to come back and help this team”.
Both Neto and Moore will be have to play well over the next few weeks for the Angels to have any shot at getting back in the playoff picture.
Trey Cabbage was called up by the Angels on Friday, something that was bound to happen at some point with the season he’s putting together in AAA. Cabbage is hitting .287 with 23 home runs (leads all of the Pacific Coast League in AAA), 24 stolen bases, and an OPS off .934 in 314 at bats. Cabbage’s bat has never been the concern for the Angels as he’s consistently been one of the best hitters in the minor leagues when healthy (hit .327 with 10 home runs in just 113 at bats in 2022 for the AA Trash Pandas, and had 27 home runs with an OPS of .881 between A and AA in 2021) over the last few years.
His defense has been the main question, as Cabbage has played 3B, 1B, and the corner outfield positions in the minors but has always been somewhat of a liability in the field regardless of the position. The hope is that Cabbage, because of his speed, can be platooned in both the outfield and at first base and make adjustments defensively because his bat is so crucial to a lineup that desperately needs offensive production with a multitude of injuries. Nonetheless, Cabbage was extremely “amped” to be called up to the minors as he got the news while out with his fiancé at lunch. Cabbage stressed how grateful he is to be healthy and able to come in and give a boost to this Angels team, “Last year I missed a lot of time being hurt, this year I’ve been healthier, it’s been a blessing and I’m excited to be here”.
Cabbage also added that his parents were just as “amped” to make their first ever trip to Southern California from Tennessee, “My parents flight beat me out here, my flight got delayed, but they are very excited for me and amped to be out here just like me”. Cabbage made his MLB Debut in a critical situation on Friday night pinch hitting for Michael Stefanic with two guys on and one out in the bottom of the 8th inning. Cabbage swung at the first pitch and grounded into a fielders choice, and Angels manager Phil Nevin added that Cabbage will get more at-bats and will likely start Sunday vs. RHP Christian Javier.
Something else important to note is that Luis Rengifo was pulled from Friday’s game following a critical error he made in the top of the 4th inning. It was evident that the error effected Rengifo as he didn’t run fast towards the baseball, allowing Kyle Tucker to score from second base. Rengfio could have likely prevented Tucker from scoring if he showed more effort retrieving the baseball, which would have forced Tucker to at least re-think heading for home plate. Nevin ended up pinch hitting Eduardo Escobar for Rengifo in the bottom of the 4th with two guys on base in a 4-3 and Escobar delivered with an RBI single. When asked about the error Rengifo said “I lost the ball in the lights, I can do better at running after the baseball, I have to learn from that”.
Despite all of the reinforcements that returned for the Angels on Friday, they still came up short even with their best pitcher on the mound in Shohei Ohtani (who is still dealing with a blister and fingernail issue on his pitching hand) and the bullpen didn’t help. Jacob Webb (who has been relied upon to minimize damage) came in with two runners on for Ohtani and ended up giving up a total of 2 earned runs, and Ohtani’s left baserunner as well.
Webb simply didn’t do his job and after the Angels had come back from down two runs, Webb put the game out of reach for a lineup that simply hasn’t produced as much as they should have recently (hence the Angels having 12 hits and just 5 runs on Friday night). Now the Angels are 45-47 and 6 games back of the final Wild Card spot, and both the Astros and Rangers have extended their lead another game on them. Despite a tough July schedule coming up that includes the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Braves, the Angels will need to go on a run very soon before all playoff hopes are lost.
The Angels will play the second game of the series Saturday night with Reid Detmers going up against Cy Young Award frontrunner Framber Valdez (whom the Angels have struggled immensely against in the past). First pitch is scheduled for 6:07 PM PST.