Major League Baseball draft

Justin Smoak hit .333 with 207 RBIs and hit a school-record 62 home runs in three years at South Carolina.

South Carolina teammates Justin Smoak and Reese Havens have known one another since they were little leaguers, growing up on either side of Charleston.

Now, they're both first-round major league draft picks.

Smoak went 11th to the Texas Rangers and the New York Mets made Havens the 22nd overall pick in today's Major League Baseball draft.

Going to San Diego with the 69th overall pick, third baseman James Darnell became the third South Carolina player taken in the first two rounds the draft.

Darnell teetered between the first and second round in many projections, with some teams not feeling as confident in the Californian's hitting approach compared to Smoak and Havens.

Still, Darnell finished his junior year hitting .306 with 19 homers and a team-high 81 RBIs. Darnell hit 41 home runs in his three-year career at USC.

Drawing comparisons from ESPN's draft crew to former Texas switch-hitting first baseman Mark Teixeira, Smoak waited a little more than an hour to hear his name called.

"This guy's the most intriguing guy (in the first round) to me," ESPN analyst Steve Phillips, a former pro general manager, said of Smoak. "He's got power from both sides. He can run into some home runs. : I think it's a terrific pick."

Hall of Fame analyst Peter Gammons compared Smoak's plate approach to Teixeira's Braves teammate and another switch-hitter, Chipper Jones. Gammons saw Smoak play in the prestigious Cape Cod summer league.

MLB.com's scouting report of Smoak was also flattering for the Gamecocks' all-time home run leader. His 62 homers, in three seasons, are 14 more than anyone had before him at USC.

"There are a number of top-notch college first basemen in this year's class and Smoak is right at the top of the list," MLB.com says. "That's because he's got a smooth and easy swing that generates plenty of power from both sides of the plate. This isn't college power; it will translate just fine to the pro game."

Like Smoak, ESPN's draft crew lauded the selection of Havens.

"I think there's a lot of teams pounding the desk right now," said analyst Steve Phillips, a former Mets GM. "I think this guy's a baseball player. : This guy's a good pick."

Added Keith Law from Scouts Inc.: "He's just a ballplayer. Great instincts and feel for the game."

Law also said Havens, from Sullivan's Island, has a shot to move quickly through the Mets' system.

The question, really, is where Havens will play.

New York has young shortstop Jose Reyes, lending fuel to speculation that whatever team drafted Havens would move him to either second base or catcher.

With aging veterans in those spots, the Mets aren't set in the long term at either position.

Pro clubs salivated for Havens' leadership ability and natural knack for the game. When he reworked his swing this past summer, adding a power stroke, he vaulted himself into All-American status and higher up teams' draft boards.

Havens hit nine home runs his freshman and sophomore years. But after working with Cape Cod League coach Mike Roberts, the former North Carolina coach, Havens came back to Columbia armed with a compact, powerful swing.

He responded with 18 home runs, a .357 average and 57 RBIs from the leadoff spot, to go along with leadership that Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner says is among the best he's ever seen.

Havens worked out this week for Boston. But he didn't last long enough for the Red Sox to take him with the 30th pick. Havens did work out at catcher for the Sox.

ESPN analyst Peter Gammons said, if Havens does move behind the plate, some major league teams see him as another Russell Martin type. Martin, the Dodgers catcher, shows some power, hits well for average, plays well defensively and handles the pitching staff gracefully.

Smoak, who played at Stratford High School in Goose Creek, became the highest USC player drafted since Bishop England product Drew Meyer in 2002. Meyer was also taken by Texas. Havens also played at Bishop England.

Both Havens and Smoak were projected as first-rounders coming out of high school. After successful USC careers, they're still first-rounders.

The Charleston-area natives' USC teammate, third baseman James Darnell, isn't expected to stay on the draft board too much longer.

Reach Travis Haney at thaney@postandcourier.com and check out the new South Carolina blog at www.charleston.net/blogs/gamecocks.