20 Under 25 Rankings: #14 - Eduardo Rodriguez

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20 Under 25 Rankings: #14 - Eduardo Rodriguez

TURNS 25: APRIL 7, 2018
FINAL RATING: 6.2

Prior to the 2016 campaign Eduardo Rodriguez might’ve found himself higher on this list. But the soap opera that was the 23-year-old’s second season in Boston was unsettling.

Following 2015, when he finished with a 3.85 ERA over 121 innings, Rodriguez was penciled in as the Red Sox' No. 2 starter behind David Price. But a February knee injury that initially seemed mild delayed the start of his season to May 31.

When E-Rod made his return to a scuffling starting rotation, he didn't provide the help they needed. He gave up 4-plus runs in four of his first six outings, buying himself a bus ticket to Pawtucket.

However, his second stint with the Red Sox, which began after a couple of weeks in the minors, was much more promising . . . until a hamstring injury all but ended his season.

Rodriguez clearly has that ability to be a No. 2 starting pitcher on most teams, but his mental makeup is the biggest concern. With Price, Chris Sale, and Rick Porcello filling the first three slots in the rotation, Rodriguez has significantly less pressure on him entering 2017. This will be the chance for him to get his bearings and should serve as the final test for the Boston front office to see if he can handle the pressure of pitching in this city.
 

20 Under 25 Rankings: #20 - Frank Vatrano

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20 Under 25 Rankings: #20 - Frank Vatrano

TURNS 25: MARCH 14, 2019
FINAL RATING: 5.2 OUT OF 10

While he might not be considered a prospect because he’s entering his second year in the NHL, Frank Vatrano isn’t that much older than kids still developing in the collegiate and junior-hockey ranks.

Vatrano opted to sign with the Bruins after one year of college hockey, and now he’s one of the Bruins' great offensive hopes. The 22-year-old East Longmeadow, Mass., native scored an eye-popping 44 goals between the NHL and AHL last season, and flashed the best shot and release on the entire team when he was in shooting position.

The real story with Vatrano is the work he put in prior to his first full pro season to drop some weight, get into shape and gain the kind of skating speed that, with his size and shot, could make him highly effective at the NHL level. Now it’s up to Vatrano to show he can build off his eight goals in 39 games during his rookie season in Boston.

Vatrano elevated his profile a bit when he starred with Auston Matthews for Team USA at the World Championships last spring, and was trending toward becoming a top-6 winger role alongside David Krejci until  he suffered his foot injury just ahead of the preseason. He missed the first three months of the season, but he's back now.

Given his youth and the kind of classic goal-scoring tools he’s shown in parts of two NHL seasons, he could become the best offensive player the state of Massachusetts has supplied to the Bruins in a long, long time.

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20 Under 25 Rankings: #19 - Jacoby Brissett

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20 Under 25 Rankings: #19 - Jacoby Brissett

TURNS 25: DECEMBER 11, 2017
FINAL RATING: 5.7

After one Patriots practice late in the season, Jacoby Brissett walked by the locker of defensive captain Devin McCourty with one purpose: To boast about the fact that he threw for two touchdowns on the Pro Bowler.

After a good-natured back-and-forth where McCourty doubted the validity of Brissett's claims, the veteran shouted as the rookie walked away, "But I like you, Brissett!"

The North Carolina State product with the big arm has impressed many within the organization during his first year as a pro. But has he been impressive enough? His development could be the deciding factor in how the Patriots handle Jimmy Garoppolo moving forward.

Is Brissett ready to be the backup? Could he be Tom Brady's successor? Those answers may be unclear to those of us who aren't able to watch him run the "look squad" in practice on a daily basis or see him in meeting rooms.

But people like Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels probably have an idea. They brought him on trips with the team while he was on injured reserve so that he might get a better understanding of the game-day operation on the road. They designated him as the player to return off of injured reserve, allowing him to get more practice reps late in the year. It seems like they're grooming the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder for something.

If they are, and if he becomes the No. 2 man on the depth chart in 2017, he'll be the only player on this list capable of seeing a monster bump in his ranking next year without any additional playing time. The promotion alone would drastically alter how he's perceived.