Don't Judge The Coasties By Won-Loss Record

The Gulf Coast League season is over with the Dodgers entry compiling a 25-29 record. Rather unimpressive, you might ascertain but if you do, you'd be wrong. Oh, sure, they had a losing record but it still represents a remarkable turn in the fortunes of the team.

Midway through the season, they were fourth in a four-team division, 13 games below .500, five games out of third place and seemingly doomed to a dreary campaign. Then, however, they began to find ways to win . Their improvement was almost spectacular. In the final week, they still needed wins in their last five games to finish second behind the Mets, a runaway winner. So that's what they did, sweeping all five to wind up the runner-up.

What's even more remarkable is that they did this while losing four key players to promotions. The best pitcher, Ramon Paredes, closer Miguel Ramirez, shortstop Ivan DeJesus, Jr. and second baseman Adolfo Gonzalez were all whisked away yet they overcame that.

That they were able to do so was certainly one of those cliche "team efforts" but they did keep one extremely valuable man -- a Venezuelan named Eduardo Perez. Since in this league teams play only in their division, it's hard to compare him with those in the other two but as far as the East goes, he was by far the best hitter and the stats say he was the best in the whole league.

But then, he's always had the look of a guy who could swing a bat with authority. Oh, maybe, not when he was breaking in at age 17 in the summer league back home when he only managed a .230 average . After that, though, he came on very well, posting a .285 mark in 2003 in the Dominican Summer League.

He was back in that same league in 2004 only because there wasn't an available visa for him. He had played here in the extended camp, looking like he was ready but without the work visa, had to go to the Dominican once more. There he blossomed. Did he ever.

Playing for the team designated Santo Domingo #1 he was scorching a, .500 mark (26-for-52) when it was decided to move him over to Santo Domingo #2 which was a contender. He went on to hit .348 for that group and was starting to show signs of power with a total of six home runs.

This year the Dodgers made sure he had the necessary visa so he could stay. Again, he was impressive in the extended camp, only to suffer a leg injury which kept him from making the Ogden roster. He's been making up for that ever since.

With a quick line drive stroke that is more and more providing increasing lift , he just missed being the Gulf Coast triple crown winner. He led the league in batting average (.352), and runs batted in (37) but his six home runs were three shy of first in that department. Name any other important category and he either led or came close to being numero uno for he was tops in hits (63), total bases (99), and slugging percentage (.553) while finishing second in doubles (16) and third in on-base percentage (.405).

While he didn't do much running, he's quick enough, attempting only four steals and making it each time. All this in 46 games.

Perez is a third baseman by trade and seems to possess the arm strength and coordination for that position. Since the Dodgers wanted to use fourth-round draft pick Josh Bell there as well, manage Luis Salazar often used Perez as a designated hitter and occasionally played him at first.

Since he's finishing his fourth year, he's eligible for the Rule 5 draft. It's a longshot to promote anybody from a rookie league to the 40-man roster no matter what kind of season he had but you can bet Perez will be protected as high as feasible. In all, he looked like the best hitter the Dodgers have had in the Gulf Coast since Victor Diaz. Victor's doing well with the Mets now. On the other hand, Perez (who just had his 21st birthday) has the look of a man you want to keep around.