Who will Phillies take 1st overall?

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PHILADELPHIA >> Perhaps the Philadelphia Phillies still don't know who they'll select with the No. 1 overall pick in the major league baseball draft Thursday night.

There's no Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg in this draft. Not even a Pat Burrell, who was chosen by the Phillies in 1998, the only other time they had the top pick.

Finishing 63-99 in 2015 gave Philadelphia its choice of the top amateur talent. But there isn't a consensus No. 1 this year.

Florida left-hander A.J. Puk and Mercer University outfielder Kyle Lewis are considered strong possibilities. La Costa Canyon High School (Calif.) outfielder Mickey Moniak, Louisville outfielder Corey Ray, Chaminade College Prep (Calif.) outfielder Blake Rutherford and Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel are also in the mix. Barnegat High School pitcher Jason Groome was the front-runner months ago, but it appears the Phillies are no longer considering him.

"We have a small group of players, both position players and pitchers, that we're considering and we're hammering it out every single day," scouting director Johnny Almaraz said. "We're narrowing things down now and hopefully a few hours before (the draft) we'll be pretty much on target with who we want."

The Phillies stockpiled young talent, especially pitchers, in their farm system through a series of trades over the past two years. Their rebuilding process has accelerated following a good start.

Still, Almaraz isn't planning to pick a college player over a high school player simply because he could be ready to play in the big leagues sooner.

"There's no pressure," Almaraz said. "We're doing our job to take the best player with the best ability."

Money could be an issue.

The No. 1 pick is allotted $9.02 million. The Phillies could choose a player they strike a deal with for a lesser amount so they can use the leftover money to spend on the first pick in the second round, No. 42 overall.

"Hopefully we can get a deal done where we can maximize our dollars," Almaraz said.

Almaraz has studied every draft since 1965. He said players picked between Nos. 5-20 have outperformed the No. 1 guy quite often.

"Knowing that, it's helped me widen the range of prospects as far as we're concerned at 1," he said.

The hard-throwing Puk has the size (6-foot-7 and 230 pounds) scouts desire, along with the big-time fastball in the upper 90s. He had a 3.21 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 70 innings, but he also walked 31.

Lewis, who is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, is considered a five-tool player with above-average power. He hit .395 with 20 homers and 72 RBIs in 61 games this season, earning Southern Conference Player of the Year honors for the second straight year.

"There's a lot of debate going on up there," first-year general manager Matt Klentak said. "And it's good debate. It's really healthy. People with different backgrounds and different preferences, explaining what direction they think we should go. Others finding different ways. I think it's been really healthy. Johnny has done an excellent job of organizing the thoughts and keeping the meetings moving."


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