Gamecocks get good news on day 2 of draft

semerson@thestate.com June 7, 2008 

At first glance, the USC appeared to be burned badly by the Major League Baseball first-year player draft.

Three superstars were picked early and appear headed pro. One high-profile recruit is already gone, and two current pitchers may join the exodus.

But considering how bad it could have been, the Gamecocks might come out in good shape.

USC recruiting coordinator Monte Lee said he spoke Friday to three drafted recruits, all of whom said they would be passing on the pros.

That included junior college catcher Justin Dalles, who would be one of the key pieces of next year’s offense. Dalles was picked by Toronto in the 26th round, much lower than he was expected to go.

“To get Justin Dalles, that’s huge for us,” Lee said. “He was a big part of the signing class, just because he’s a power-hitting catcher.”

The other two players to inform Lee they were coming to USC were instate high school players: pitcher Adam Westmoreland from Brookland-Cayce (35th round, Los Angeles Dodgers) and outfielder Adam Matthews from White Knoll (41st, Cleveland.)

The Gamecocks already lost one recruit on the first day of the draft; Hartsville pitcher Jordan Lyles signed with Houston, which picked him 36th overall. Lee also expects junior college pitcher Eric Broberg (41st, Detroit) to sign.

But Lyles and Broberg were, at best, a 50-50 shot to come to USC. So if everyone else fails to sign by the Aug. 15 deadline, Lee will feel pretty good about the class.

“We’re OK,” Lee said. “It really turned out good for us.”

As for current Gamecocks, the news was mixed.

Seven players on the present roster were drafted, five of them juniors. Lefty pitcher Will Atwood was the first to go Friday, in the 12th round to Washington. That was higher than expected for Atwood and enhances the chances that he will forego his senior year.

Junior pitcher Mike Cisco went in the 36th round to Philadelphia. Atwood and Cisco could not be reached for comment. Lee said the staff had spoken to both pitchers, who were uncertain of their plans.

Two seniors also were picked.

Power-hitting Phil Disher went in the 15th round to the Houston Astros, who pegged him as a first baseman. That validates Disher’s decision to return after last season, when he was picked in the 45th round.

Relief pitcher Brandon Todd was picked in the 36th round by Florida. Todd was picked in the 38th round in 2004, when he was in junior college.

The Gamecocks also were expecting to lose the three players picked early Thursday: first baseman Justin Smoak (1st, Texas), shortstop Reese Havens (1st, New York Mets) and third baseman James Darnell (2nd, San Diego).

In another note, both former Gamecocks dismissed from the team last season were selected.

Pitcher Nick Fuller, now at Walters State (Tenn.) Community College, was picked by Atlanta in the 25th round. Fuller and infielder Lonnie Chisenhall — who went in the first round to Cleveland — are serving probation after being charged with burglary and grand larceny.

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.

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