Less than 24 hours before the Astros were to make the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB amateur draft for the second consecutive year, their plans for 2013 were becoming increasingly similar to their actions in 2012.

Two righthanded college pitchers (Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray) and two college third basemen (Kris Bryant, Colin Moran) continued to top the Astros’ draft board, with Loganville, Ga., high school outfielders Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows long shots. But after more than a year’s worth of in-depth scouting, background checks and in-person evaluations, there was little separation among the top four. Signability is expected to be a key factor in determining who will join 2012 top pick Carlos Correa as an integral piece of the organization’s ongoing rebuild.

The initial two rounds of the draft begin at 6 p.m. Thursday and will be televised on MLB Network. Rounds 3-10 are Friday; rounds 11-40 are Saturday. In addition to the top pick, the Astros will have Thursday’s 40th selection.

Baseball America’s mock draft

“The draft is thrilling for everyone involved. Scouting is one of the few jobs I can think of where you spend all year preparing for one day,” said Mike Elias, Astros director of amateur scouting. “This day is sort of our version of the Super Bowl, and we all get very excited about it.”

Correa, a Puerto Rican high school shortstop, was a smart pick last June. He was also a money pick, signing well below slot value at $4.8 million. If the Astros pass on Appel again — he was a top No. 1 candidate in 2012 — or choose Gray or Moran, money is expected to again play a key role.

As in 2012, the overall talent of the 2013 class is average. There are fewer high school stars, leading to a lack of consensus about the first pick and the likelihood the Astros again could opt for quantity over quality as they attempt to increase the depth of their steadily improving farm system.

“What they should do — and what I think they will do — is your main concern has to be, who’s the best player? If they think it’s Kris Bryant, then they should take Kris Bryant,” said Jim Callis, Baseball America executive editor. “But with the way the system works, if they think that Appel and Gray and Kris Bryant are all fairly comparable and they don’t have one guy separated from the other two, then it makes some sense to say, ‘Hey, if one of these guys will take $1 million less than the other two, that’s something we’ve got to consider.’ ”

Appel and Bryant are represented by power agent Scott Boras. Gray is represented by BBI Sports Group, while Moran is considered to be the lesser of the four athletes and not expected to receive near slot value ($7.79 million).

Boras said last week he wouldn’t overvalue Appel, while Gray’s camp is willing to negotiate if their client has a chance of being chosen first.

“There are a couple of players in this draft that have removed themselves from the rest,” said Boras, who believes future drafts will see top picks again paid above slot value. “The measurement as to what Houston does in the end will be the collective measurement of the field manager, the scouting and the executives in the entity.”