Camels crash 1st round of MLB Draft

Zach Neto was taken 13th by the Angels, and Thomas Harrington went to the Pirates at No. 36

Campbell shortstop Zach Neto, left, shakes hands with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred after being selected by the Los Angeles Angels with the 13th pick of the 2022 MLB Draft on Sunday in Los Angeles. (Jae C. Hong / AP Photo)

Members of the Campbell baseball team fancy themselves as “a bunch of nobodies from nowhere” because of their remote location in Buies Creek and the considerable shadow cast by their nationally recognized neighbors at UNC, NC State and East Carolina.

It’s a persona they celebrated with a poster adorned with the word “Nobodies” on the wall of their dugout this season.

Apparently, the Camels aren’t as anonymous as they might think.

On Sunday, shortstop Zach Neto became the highest Major League Baseball draft pick in program history when he was selected by the Los Angeles Angels at No. 13th overall.

Neto’s teammate Thomas Harrington also went in the first round, going to the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 36th pick as part of the Competitive Balance phase, making Campbell the first school in the draft to have multiple players taken.

It’s a development that has Camels coach Justin Haire feeling “like a kid in a candy store.”

“Having two players go before the second round is both a testament to those young men and their work ethic, as well as to our program for the ability to identify, develop and produce high-quality individuals,” Haire said. “It’s an amazing day for those guys and our program. The future for all involved is so bright.”

The Campbell duo was joined in the first round by East Forsyth High School star Xavier Isaac, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman taken at No. 29 by the Tampa Bay Rays.

They are among the 23 players with ties to the state whose names were called during the first 10 rounds of the draft. It’s a group that also includes Campbell signee Jackson Humphries, a right-hander from Fuquay-Varina High School who was taken by the Cleveland Guardians in Round 8.

Neto, the two-time Big South Player of the Year, hit .407 with 15 homers, 50 RBIs and 19 stolen bases this season while striking out only 19 times in 256 at-bats in leading Campbell to its fourth straight conference championship.

Harrington, the Big South Pitcher of the Year, set school records for wins and strikeouts in a season while going 12-2 with a 2.53 ERA and 111 strikeouts for the Camels in 2022.

For Neto, the record-setting selection and the $4.41 million bonus slot that comes with it represent a form of personal vindication after going undrafted and ignored by Power 5 schools coming out of high school in Miami in 2019.

“It just gave me an underdog mentality,” Neto, wearing an Angels hat and jersey, said in a televised interview on MLB Network shortly after his selection. “I kept that throughout my college career and I’m going to continue that going into this year. All the teams that passed on me, it’s going to hurt them at the end of the day.”

Campbell wasn’t the only local draftee with something to prove.

ECU pitcher Carson Whisenhunt would likely have been a first-round pick as well had he been able to play for the Pirates this season.

But after being suspended for a year by the NCAA after testing positive for a banned substance he claimed was taken unknowingly in an over-the-counter supplement, he dropped to the final pick of the second round. He was taken at No. 66 overall by the San Francisco Giants.

Another Pirates star, two-way player Zach Agnos, was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the 10th round.

In addition to Campbell and ECU, Duke, Charlotte, UNC Greensboro, UNC and NC State had multiple players selected on the first two days of the scheduled 20-round draft.

Duke pitchers Henry Williams and Marcus Johnson went to the San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins in the third and fourth round, respectively.

Charlotte second baseman Nate Furman was taken by the Guardians in the fourth round at No. 121, while third baseman David McCabe went to the Atlanta Braves four slots later.

UNC Greensboro had pitcher Alex Hoppe go to the Boston Red Sox in the sixth round and second baseman Hogan Windish to the Seattle Mariners in Round 7.

It took until the sixth round for both UNC and NC State to have their first players taken, with Tar Heels shortstop Danny Serretti going to the Detroit Tigers at No. 177 overall and Wolfpack shortstop Josh Hood going to the Mariners at No. 186.

Pitcher Davis Palermo became the second UNC draftee when he was selected by the Rockies in the eighth round, while State closer Chris Villaman went to the Rays in the ninth round.

Other drafted players in the first 10 rounds with state ties include Davidson pitcher Nolan DeVos in the fifth round to the Houston Astros, Wake Forest pitcher Eric Adler to the Chicago White Sox in the sixth round, Elon outfielder Alex Iadisernia to the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh round, Western Carolina pitcher Zebby Matthews to the Minnesota Twins in the eighth round and Randleman High School catcher Brooks Brannon to the Red Sox in the ninth round.

Rounding out the picks in the first 10 rounds were Cubs selection Brody McCullough, who pitched Wingate to the Division II national championship in 2021, and pitcher Tanner Jacobson of Queens, taken by the Cardinals.