I think you're probably right but have one question to which I can't seem to get an answer. I question why the assumption is that Kepler starts in RF with Cave as the 4th OF. Based on performance, it should be the other way around at least until we see if Cave's solid second half last year (much better at the plate than Kepler) was a mirage. They're both good in the OF, with Kepler reputedly better. Yet Molitor tried both in CF last year and Cave was the starting CF when both were available.That at least suggests that last year's manager thought Cave was the better outfielder. I've thought about 3 possible answers but none really answer the question for me:
(1) Kepler has more potential/a higher upside. That might have made sense last year or two years ago, but Kepler now has 1500 plus ABS and can't hit. A .730 OPS just isn't good enough for a corner OF. Not even close. 1500 ABs suggest that he may be close to his ceiling now.
(2) Small sample size for Cave who didn't make the majors until age 25. Fair point, but not a reason to bench him. He won the job last year with superior performance so he should get the chance to build on that performance. Good teams reward on field performance. Mediocre to bad teams pick favorites, play them regardless of performance,and then wonder why the team doesn't get better. Which one are we?
(3) Cave strikes out to much and we need better OBP with all of the SO prone power hitters we now have. Logical thought process to get rid of Austin, but Kepler has an OBP of .309, .312, and .319 the last 3 years and is projected at .317 for 2019. Cave was .316 OBP last year with an OPS that was 70 points higher. The OBPs are basically the same and Cave is more productive overall. .
This decision isn't a big deal in the larger sense that there are enough ABs in the OF for both to get 500 plus this year, particularly if Kepler plays some as the LH hitting 1B, something he absolutely should do. We don't need 600 plus ABs of Cron at 1B.He's better than Austin but he isn't an All-Star. It's just that the assumption that Kepler is the starting RF when he just hasn't performed at the plate now for 3 years looks like more of the same scholarship thinking that has killed this team for years. We need to reward performance, not hoped for potential.
That's the larger point. I look at the lineup and every single player has question marks as to whether they are quality MLB players except for Cruz (and he's old), and I would say Rosario. Same for the pitching staff outside of Berrios, Gibson and maybe Rogers. Yet I read these reviews and we're assuming guys like Kepler, Polanco and Hildenberger are established Major League players who shouldn't have to compete for their jobs and be moved aside if some unknown shows up and plays better.They aren't. I'm very hopeful/optimistic about the new FO and this year in part because I'm thinking/hoping that the new regime will actually reward on field performance without being tied to past favorites. That thinking has to prevail or we can't improve. Otherwise, it's just the Terry Ryan era all over again.