Boston sports fans are fortunate to be able to watch so many long-established standouts, from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork to David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia. But it’s not just the veteran stars and legends-in-progress who will be on our radar in the new year. There’s also plenty of more intriguing talent that is still improving, has just arrived, or is on the fast-track to success, such as Tyler Seguin. Here are our 10 young players to watch in 2013. Next
While Bradley is recuperating from double shoulder surgery that ended his breakthrough 2011-12 season in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics have floundered to a 13-12 start this season, and their trademark stellar defense has been alarmingly porous.
Perhaps too much burden in regard to curing their ills is being put on the 22-year-old Bradley, who recently began practicing. But his dogged, relentless defense on opposing point guards (and, memorably, Dwyane Wade) has been dearly missed, and he’s no slouch offensively, either, having shot 40.7 percent from 3-point range while meshing seamlessly with point guard Rajon Rondo. Next
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Perhaps this is a bit premature for the 22-year-old center field prospect, since he hasn’t had an at-bat above Double A yet. But the educated hunch here is that he could rise quickly, similar to Jacoby Ellsbury’s ascent in 2007.
Bradley’s glove is exceptional by major-league standards, and he’s been an on-base machine in the low minors, with a .415 OBP between Salem and Portland last season. The Red Sox lack a lefthanded-hitting platoon partner for Jonny Gomes in left field.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he finds his way into the Fenway outfield by mid-summer. Next
The youngest player by far on our list, the Revolution striker doesn’t turn 18 until February 14. But the Uraguay-born son of a professional goalkeeper has already begun acquitting himself well at the highest level of United States professional soccer, scoring two goals and adding two assists in 20 games (8 starts) last season.
Seven of his eight starts came in the final 13 games, an indication of improvement – and perhaps forshadowing bigger feats ahead. Next
It would take us until New Year’s Day 2014 to count all of our gripes and frustrations with the NHL lockout. Here’s one that’s probably somewhere down – but still relevant – on a Bruins fan’s list: we’ve missed out on the chance to see Hamilton, the bruising 6-foot-5-inch, 19-year-old defenseman chosen with the ninth overall pick in 2011, make his NHL debut this season.
The 19-year-old is currently waiting out the labor mess by playing for the Niagara IceDogs in the OHL, for whom he has 8 goals and 33 assists in 32 games. Next
It’s a tribute to the Patriots’ successful recent draft history that they have so many quality young players who could be considered here – for instance, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Stevan Ridley, and Alfonzo Dennard are all just 23 years old.
While it’s tempting to include Gronk in particular – can you believe he’s only 23?—he’s already established as one of the league’s marquee stars. So instead, let’s include the 22-year-old defensive end Jones, who has had some tremendous high points during a rookie season in which he has six sacks and three forced fumbles, but who has been slowed by the aftereffects of an ankle injury recently.
He still has room to grow, which is just what AFC East offensive coordinators want to hear. Next
The 22-year-old entered the 2012 season as the third baseman of the future. It did not take long for him to become the third baseman of the present. Middlebrooks made his debut May 2 after homering nine times at Pawtucket, then promptly hit three homers in his first four big-league games.
Happy trails, Kevin Youkilis.
Middlebrooks looked like a prototypical No. 5 hitter, hitting 15 homers with an .835 OPS in 75 games before his season was ended when a stray pitch broke a bone in his wrist August 10. The Red Sox went 13-35 in his absence. Next
With Tim Thomas presumably hunkered down somewhere in Colorado, his Bruins legacy kicked aside like a weak shot, the space between the pipes now belongs to Rask.
He’s been the primary goalie before, having posted a 1.97 goals against average as the starter in 2009-10 before serving as the rejuvenated Thomas’s very capable backup the past two seasons.
He should be up to the task. Next
In 2011-12 – you know, back when the National Hockey League actually played hockey games – Seguin had a very encouraging sophomore season, scoring 29 goals and adding 38 assists in 81 games for the defending champs. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, Seguin has everything necessary to be one of the league’s next great scorers – and he doesn’t turn 21 until January 31.
Here’s hoping the lockout is over and he’s back in Boston for the celebration, and not still playing in Switzerland, where he has 27 goals in 24 games for Biel this season. Next
It was tempting to include Rajon Rondo as the second Celtic on this list since the further growth of the extraordinary if enigmatic 26-year-old point guard is fundamental in determining how far the Green goes this year.
But then Magic Johnson called him the best point guard in the league, a reminder that his stardom is established even if he can still get better. So somewhat by default, but also because his instincts and rebounding ability grow on you the more you see him, we’ll go with Sullinger, the rookie forward from Ohio State who will really be a factor once the refs stop calling fouls on him whenever he’s within five feet of his man. Next
Tazawa is older than many probably perceive him to be – he turns 27 in June – but we’ll include him here because he had an encouraging burst of success for the Red Sox last season after missing the entire 2010 season and much of 2011 following Tommy John surgery.
Tazawa was a revelation on a team that didn’t have many last season, throwing harder than he did before the surgery while posting a 1.43 ERA and striking out 45 batters against just 5 walks in 37 games.
He was what Daniel Bard used to be as a setup man, and he may be the closer of the future. Back to the beginning
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below