Less than a week away from the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, teams are trying to line up their boards in earnest. With so much still up in the air at this point, that's a task easier said than done. Like with every Draft, though, there are players who are rumored to be slipping down the charts, either because of poor performance, injury or signability. In some instances, it's a combination of those factors.
Nobody is falling farther than Andrew Brackman. The big North Carolina State right-hander hasn't pitched since May 12 with what was described as arm fatigue. Everyone was looking forward to a planned start in one of N.C. State's regional games this weekend in Columbia, S.C. Brackman evidently had some elbow inflammation and when he threw a brief bullpen session on Wednesday, he experienced some elbow discomfort. The release on the N.C. State Web site was the first public acknowledgement of an injury, and the decision was made to not have Brackman on the roster during regional play.
"After Andrew experienced continued discomfort in his elbow during [Wednesday]'s bullpen session, I made the decision not to jeopardize his future by trying to pitch in this weekend's regional," N.C. State head coach Elliott Avent said in the release. "We would love to have him available this weekend, but I just don't believe it would be in his best interests. If we advance, we certainly hope to have Andrew available for the Super Regional next weekend and beyond."
His removal from the Regional roster deprives scouts the one final look they were hoping to get at Brackman, who has been an enigma for most of the year. He showed his plus raw stuff early on, including a fastball in the upper 90s, but as he piled up innings for the first time, his stuff suffered and then he was shut down. There was hope that the time off and a good start this weekend would put him back firmly into the first-round picture. Now, by Avent not wanting to "jeopardize his future," Brackman's Draft future is very much up in the air.
"It would've been huge," a scouting director said of Brackman's scheduled start. "That's why we know he's hurt. They know it would've been huge. They know it would've been a big, big start. There would've been a ton of guys coming in, sitting in to see if he was OK, how free and easy he was, if he was maintaining his velocity, that sort of thing. Knowing he's not on the roster now is about as big a red flag as you'll see."
The "they" isn't just N.C. State. Even further muddling the situation is the fact that Brackman has Scott Boraas as his advisor. Information about injuries isn't always shared publicly, but there's enough to read between the lines that something is not right with Brackman's right arm.
"They haven't let it out that he got an MRI or that he's definitely hurt," the scouting director said. "If he's not on the roster, that means you can't even use him for an inning. If you can't use him for an inning with inflammation, there's a problem. I think that moves him way down."
It could cause some slippage for a pair of other Boras advisees. Matt Harvey entered the year as one of the top high school pitchers in the class. His performance hasn't been quite as good as Rick Porcello's, causing some of the drop-off, but the concern about his signability is forcing him toward the end of the first round.
Then there's Matt Wieters. The top bat in the college class is all over the first-round map. A small part of that has been a slightly inconsistent season, particularly early. But it's financial concerns that will force him down boards. Placing him has been hard as he could still go in the top 10, but if he doesn't, he could end up being this year's Stephen Drew.
Regional action under way: This weekend the NCAA Tournament began with regional action, giving scouts one last chance to see college players in action, under the spotlight and pressure of postseason play. While some of the top draft talent -- Wieters and Ross Detwiler to name two -- aren't playing, there are still some matchups of interest:
The Tallahassee Regional: In a Friday afternoon tilt in the Conway Regional at Coastal Carolina, Clemson lefty Daniel Moskos got one more turn before Draft day. The closer-turned-starter had another strong outing against St. John's, going eight innings, allowing one run on seven hits, one walk and four strikeouts. Staying put meant scouts could check in on Florida State's Tony Thomas, the second baseman who's had one of the best offensive seasons in college baseball this season.
The Houston Regional: There are a number of college pitchers who could sneak into the first round, and strong regional showings certainly won't hurt them. A pair of hurlers are in Houston. Texas Christian's Jake Arrieta got the ball on Friday afternoon against Baylor. Rice's Joe Savery, a sure-fire first-rounder until offseason shoulder surgery slowed him this seasson, could go if the Owls face an elimination game on Monday. At the same time, relievers Sam Demel (Texa Christian) and Cole St. Clair (Rice) will be given opportunities to protect leads whenever they should arise.
The Fayetteville Regional: Camp out watching the Arkansas staff pitch and you should be OK. Duke Welker pitches Friday night and even though he might be the Razorbacks' No. 3 starter, he's still a Draft prospect. Jess Todd will try to back up his 17-strikeout performance in the SEC tournament on Saturday, while Nick Schmidt, who could go in the top 10 of the draft, goes on Sunday. At the same time, scouts can check out Oklahoma State hitters like third baseman Matt Mangini and outfielder Corey Brown.
The Charlottesville Regional: It may be a weak class for college bats, but they have to go at some point. Trying to figure out when they should be drafted could come down to final impressions, like a hot regional weekend. So Rutgers infielder Todd Frazier, Oregon State catcher Mitch Canham and Virginia first baseman Sean Doolittle all could be watched carefully as they figure to go in the sandwich round, and perhaps use this weekend to make an argument they belong in the top 30. If there are teams still contemplating Doolittle as a pitcher, there's that bonus as well.
Don't forget the prep ranks: While the list of interesting regional action could go on and on, it would be wrong to overlook some last-minute high school competition. Big left-hander Madison Bumgarner and his South Caldwell High teammates were headed to the 4-A state finals this weekend in North Carolina. They'll take on Wilmington Ashley in Zebulon, N.C., in a best-of-three series beginning Friday night. Bumgarner pitched extremely well in the semis and should be off the board in the first round.
In Southern California, Chatsworth High School earned its fifth straight trip to Dodger Stadium for the Los Angeles city 4A baseball finals. Teams -- and there are plenty of them -- wanting to see a little more of the dynamic duo of Mike Moustakas and Matt Dominguez -- will be at Dodger Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.
Finally, in Georgia, lefty Josh Smoker was a little off his game in Calhoun High School's Class AA semifinal on Monday. He had given up six earned runs all year, but he yielded five in Monday's game. He got some help from his offense and Calhoun pulled out a victory to advance to the final. That began on Frday at 4 p.m. ET with a doubleheader against Holy Innocence. Smoker, who should be a first-round selection, was scheduled to pitch the opener, the last time he'll be on a mound competitively before the Draft.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.