Find out how A's players and prospects are faring in their respective Winter Leagues in this edition…
A's Acquire Infielder Keith Ginter
Ginter spent the last two seasons – his only two full seasons in the major leagues – as part of the Milwaukee Brewers' organization. He was originally drafted out of Texas Tech by the Houston Astros in the 10th round of the 1998 June amateur draft. He was acquired by Milwaukee in a trade involving Mark Loretta in 2002.
In 2003, his first season with Milwaukee, Ginter hit .257 with 14 HR and 44 RBI in 127 games. He was supplanted as a starter by Junior Spivey and Craig Counsell to start the 2004 season, but gained playing time when both struggled with injuries. Ginter himself missed the better part of August with a sprained wrist. He finished the season strong, however, and was named the National League Player of the Week for the week of October 4, 2004.
Ginter is strikeout prone (he struck out 100 times in 2004), but he sees a lot of pitches per at-bat. He is an excellent pinch-hitter and he hits left-handed pitching extremely well. He also runs the bases well. Ginter hit .429 with runners on third and less than two outs in 2004, which is a situation the A's struggled with all season. He has had the most success hitting second or ninth in the batting order.
The A's are losing one of their most advanced outfield prospects in Nelson Cruz. Cruz came out of nowhere this past season to put together a monster year between A-Modesto and AA-Midland (with a short appearance in AAA-Sacramento). He hit a combined .326 with 29 HR and 100 RBI on the season. He has continued his fine hitting in the Dominican Winter League, where he is currently batting .349. Cruz still is a free swinger, however, and that likely factored in the A's decision to let him go. The A's have a number of up-and-coming outfield prospects, including Jason Perry, Matt Watson, Richie Robnett, Javier Herrera and Alexi Ogando, so they were trading from an area of depth. Cruz figures to have a chance to play for Milwaukee by 2006 at the latest.
The A's also bid adieu to reliever Justin Lehr, who will likely take the place of the recently traded Luis Vizcaino (another former A's prospect) in the Milwaukee bullpen. Lehr had a fine season for AAA-Sacramento, saving 13 games and posting a 2.65 ERA. He struggled during his time in Oakland, compiling a 1-1 record with a 5.23 ERA. The 27 year-old righty is a converted catcher and was a teammate of A's starter Barry Zito in college at USC. Although Lehr has some promise as a major league reliever, the A's again were dealing from a position of organizational depth. Relievers Chris Mabeus, Huston Street, and Jairo Garcia are all promising relief prospects in the A's system who figure to compete for a spot in the A's bullpen by 2006.
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