The Phillies have much at stake during Major League Baseball's first-year player draft, which begins Thursday and concludes Saturday.
Selecting No. 7, the Phillies will have their highest pick since choosing current Atlanta Braves righthander Gavin Floyd No. 4 in 2001.
Thursday will feature the first and second rounds along with competitive balance rounds A (after the first round) and B (after the second), which awards extra picks to teams thought to need the most assistance. The draft begins Thursday at 7 p.m. and will be televised by the MLB Network.
Rounds 3 through 10 are scheduled for Friday, and Rounds 11 through 40 conclude the draft on Saturday.
The Phillies, with a weakened minor-league system, can look at this draft as a way of stocking up. They also will choose 47th, 81st, and 112th during the first four rounds.
It's a draft that has no consensus No. 1 choice, although high school lefthander Brady Aiken is gaining traction.
Houston has the first pick for the third consecutive year, and the Astros haven't given any indication of which way they are leaning.
Three pitchers who expect to be selected at or near the top of the draft are Aiken, North Carolina State lefthander Carlos Rodon, and hard-throwing high school righthander Tyler Kolek. East Carolina righthander Jeff Hoffman was projected to be a potential top-five pick before undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Though most mock drafts have the Astros' taking one of the three aforementioned pitchers, Houston might be wary after making Stanford righthander Mark Appel the top choice last year. Appel has an 11.93 ERA through five starts for Lancaster in the high-A California League.
Even though the Phillies need pitching in a draft that is considered strong in that area, especially in the early rounds, they have made no secret of their affinity for Florida high school shortstop Nick Gordon. He is the son of former Phillies relief pitcher Tom Gordon and brother of Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon.
The Phillies had Gordon come to Citizens Bank Park for a recent workout. Even though they drafted shortstop J.P. Crawford with their first pick (16th overall) last year, the Phillies would be tempted to take Gordon, despite their obvious need for pitching.
Nick Gordon is possibly the best all-around position player in the draft.
The Minnesota Twins at No. 5 have been mentioned most often when it comes to picking Gordon, and his name also has been linked to the Astros.
Among the other highly touted position players are Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto, high school catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson, Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost, and Indiana catcher-outfielder Kyle Schwarber.
The Phillies in various mock drafts have been linked to Louisiana State righthander Aaron Nola. LSU was eliminated Monday in the NCAA tournament. Nola went 11-1 with a 1.47 ERA. He had 134 strikeouts and 27 walks in 1161/3 innings.
Evansville lefthander Kyle Freeland, Hartford lefthander Sean Newcomb, and Florida high school righthander Touki Toussaint are among the other highly touted pitchers who could be consideration for the Phillies. Freeland was selected 35th by the Phillies in 2011.
The Phillies believe they hit a home run last year with Crawford, who entered Wednesday batting .319 at low-A Lakewood.
Will No.7 be lucky for Phillies?
The Phillies hold the seventh overall pick in the first round of the draft Thursday. Here is a rundown on some of the top prospects (listed alphabetically)
LHP, Cathedral Catholic (Calif.)
The 6-foot-3 Aiken is considered the most polished high school pitcher. He had a 1.06 ERA in winning his first seven decisions.
OF, Oregon State
He had a 1.151 OPS and batted .345 with seven home runs and 56 RBIs and is considered the top college bat in the draft. His father, Mike, played football at Penn State.
SS, Olympia H.S. (Fla.)
A favorite of the Phillies, he might be the best all-around position player in the draft and is the son of former Phillies pitcher Tom Gordon and brother of Los Angeles second baseman Dee Gordon.
The 6-foot-4 Freeland was 10-2 with a 1.90 ERA and struck out 128 while walking 13 in 992/3 innings. He was a 35th-round draft choice of the Phillies in 2011.
C-OF, Rancho Bernardo H.S. (Calif.)
Jackson is considered the best high school bat in the draft. Through 35 games, Jackson was hitting .400, with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs, for Cole Hamels' alma mater.
RHP, Shepherd H.S. (Texas)
He has drawn comparisons to another former Texas high school star, Josh Beckett. Kolek may be the hardest thrower in the draft.
The 6-foot-5 Newcomb was 8-2 with a 1.25 ERA. He had 106 strikeouts and 38 walks in 931/3 innings.
RHP, Louisiana State
The 6-foot-2 Nola had a 1.16 ERA in 1161/3 innings for the Tigers. He was a 22d-round draft choice of Toronto in 2011.
C, Kennesaw State
Heading into this weekend's NCAA Super Regional, he was hitting .423 with nine home runs, 58 RBIs, and a 1.114 OPS. Pentecost was a seventh-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2011.
LHP, North Carolina State
He came on strong at the end of the season and finished 6-7 with a 2.01 ERA and 117 strikeouts and 31 walks in 922/3 innings. Scott Boras is his adviser, so it may not be an easy negotiation.
Another highly touted college bat, he hit .358 with 14 home runs, 48 RBIs, and a 1.123 OPS. Because of defensive concerns, Schwarber might not remain a catcher at the next level.
RHP, Coral Springs Christian Academy (Fla.)
Though No. 7 may be too early to draft him, Toussaint is considered to have a good upside.
- Marc Narducci