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Logan O’Hoppe, Zach Neto appear poised to change the Angels, on and off the field


ANAHEIM — Amid this rubble of a season, the future core of the Angels might have emerged.

Catcher Logan O’Hoppe and shortstop Zach Neto have combined for just 107 major league games this season, but it’s been enough to demonstrate to Manager Phil Nevin that they are the kind of players who can shape a clubhouse.

O’Hoppe, in particular, has made an impression on the manager.

“He’s that type of frontline leader that, if you want to say that’s been lacking here, it has,” Nevin said. “He’s somebody that can take over that role. Obviously, we have some veteran players that provide leadership as well, but if you look into the long term of it, I can see Logan being one of those guys.”

It’s no secret that three-time American League MVP Mike Trout is more comfortable leading by example than being vocal, and the former has been increasingly difficult as he’s spent more time on the injured list in recent years. Anthony Rendon, who was considered a significant influencer in the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse, has also been absent for much of his Angels career because of injuries.

When veteran Mike Moustakas arrived in a June trade, he began changing the culture in the clubhouse. Moustakas, who said he’s always been that kind of player, said he sees similar traits in both O’Hoppe and Neto.

“I haven’t spent as much time with these guys yet, but the older they get, the longer they’re in the big leagues, and the more they learn, the ability to do all that stuff just kind of comes naturally,” Moustakas said. “And I think they both have the opportunity to do that with the type of players that they are, and the type of type of people they are.”

Obviously, both are going to need to develop as good players and stay off the injured list, and at this point, it’s too soon to know that either will happen.

It’s also too soon to know about their clubhouse presence because their careers have just begun.

O’Hoppe was in Double-A this time last year, and Neto was a first-round draft pick out of Campbell University just 15 months ago.

“It’s definitely pretty humbling to hear,” O’Hoppe said of Nevin’s expectation for him in the clubhouse. “But with that being said, we know our role and we know that it’s our first year. There are a lot of guys in this room that have been here a lot longer than us.”

Neto said he’s just being himself so far.

“I just got here and I play the same game I’ve played since I was a little kid,” he said. “I just play with a lot of intensity. I come out and try to win, whether I’m 0 for 4 or 4 for 4. I do whatever I can to keep my teammates up, keep the spirit up, and keep doing what I can to be a game-changer.”

Neto, 22, is hitting .233 with eight home runs and a .703 OPS in 70 games, wrapped around two stints on the injured list, with a strained oblique and lower back tightness.

To Nevin, his impact is what he’s done at shortstop, though.

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

The Angels are 37-30 when Neto is the starting shortstop, a .552 winning percentage. They are 31-49 (.388) when anyone else starts.

“When we’re playing well, it’s when we’ve had Neto in the lineup,” left-hander Tyler Anderson said. “His defense is huge. If you can shore up defense at shortstop, a premium position, it’s a huge thing. He has good at-bats. He’s a really good player to have.”

O’Hoppe, 23, is also a favorite among his teammates. He established himself as soon as he got to the majors for a cameo last year.

“O’Hoppe showed up last September and it was instant leadership,” Nevin said. “He took over catchers meetings. He took over pitchers meetings.”

In spring training this year, O’Hoppe earned rave reviews for coming in on his off day so he could get more experience catching Anderson. After O’Hoppe had shoulder surgery in April, the Angels continued to have him travel with the team so he could soak up the atmosphere, learn opposing hitters and sit in on meetings with the pitchers.

It also didn’t go without notice the way O’Hoppe worked to get back from his surgery in four months, which was the minimum time expected.

O’Hoppe insisted that his goal from Day 1 of his rehab was to make it back as quickly as possible.

And while O’Hoppe said that he understands he needs to defer to older players, Nevin said behind closed doors he’s not so quiet.

“When O’Hoppe needs to say something, he says it,” Nevin said. “He doesn’t care who is around him. I love that about him. Is he always right? Maybe not, but he’s got the savvy to say that, if you will. He has the toughness. He’s not worried about what people think about him. He wants to win. He wants to lead. That’s the way his attitude is and it rubs off on people.”


Tigers (TBD) at Angels (RHP Griffin Canning, 7-6, 4.34 ERA), Friday, 6:38 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

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