Jason Kelly, Washington (Shotgun Spratling)


Rogers: Ranking The Most Impactful Assistant Hires


It’s hot in the desert this summer, both in temperature and inside two storied programs.

Arizona and Arizona State both struggled immensely at times from a pitching standpoint during the 2019 campaign. The Wildcats finished 249th nationally in ERA with a mark well over six, while the Sun Devils finished much higher at 144th overall, but also with a 4.93 ERA and a bullpen that was their downfall in the Baton Rouge Regional.

The Wildcats sensed some uncertainty at Oregon State this summer and seized the opportunity to make a strong run at heralded Beavers assistant Nate Yeskie. Jay Johnson and the Wildcats struck gold. ASU parted ways with pitching coach Mike Cather and made a run at 2018 D1Baseball Assistant of the Year and Washington assistant Jason Kelly. Like their rivals to the South, the Sun Devils, too, struck gold and hired Kelly to a package well over 200K a year.

While Yeskie’s hire certainly has more of a “wow” factor to it for the Wildcats, which hire will prove to be the most impactful beginning in 2020? That distinction goes to Arizona State and new pitching coach Jason Kelly. The Sun Devils already have one of the premier offensive lineups in college baseball. They just need some help on the mound, where Kelly will get the most out of RJ Dabovich, Erik Tolman and others with hopes of leading ASU to Omaha for the first time since 2010.

Which assistant coach hires will prove to be the most impactful? Here’s my Top 10:

1. Jason Kelly, Arizona State

The Sun Devils had one of the nation’s premier offensive lineups last season, but they struggled mightily in the pitching department, finishing 144th nationally in ERA at 4.93. ASU’s pitching woes were most evident in the Baton Rouge Regional when it had a commanding lead over Southern Miss, only to blow the lead thanks to horrible pitching. ASU head coach Tracy Smith seized an opportunity to make a splash hire and did so by bringing in 2018 D1Baseball Assistant of the Year and Washington assistant Jason Kelly. Kelly and Arizona snagging Nate Yeskie from Oregon State are the two-most impactful hires of the offseason, but ASU gets the nod here since it is primed to make a run to the College World Series with the combination of improved pitching and a potent offensive lineup.

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