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.
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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TURNS 25: APRIL 3, 2017
FINAL RATING: 5.7
After a solid start to his career in 2015, Blake Swihart was the Red Sox' starting catcher at the start of the 2016 season. He got off to a 5-for-18 start, but showed no power and scuffled behind the plate; so when the rehabbing Christian Vazquez got the medical green light to rejoin the big-league club, Swihart went down to Pawtucket and spent time in the outfield.
He worked his way back to Boston, starting 13 games in left until he hurt himself tracking a ball in the limited foul territory down the line. His sprained left ankle turned into a 60-day DL stint and season-ending surgery, limiting him to 19 games on the year.
Despite the mishap Swihart is a good enough defensively in left to play there consistently, but doesn’t hit well enough to be an outfielder. Besides, Andrew Benintendi has taken hold of the left-field spot.
The oldest Red Sox player (at age 24) to make this list, Swihart hasn’t fully lived up to the hype. He’s battled Vazquez every step of the way, and now Sandy Leon sits in front of both of them both entering 2017.
The spot for backup catcher is open, but the edge seems to be in Vazquez’s favor at the moment. If he and Leon struggle early, Swihart will get his shot -- but he needs to take full advantage if he hopes to contribute to Boston now and in the future.