Move of the Day: Wilson Ramos to the DL

May, 13, 2012
5/13/12
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Washington placing Wilson Ramos on the disabled list has to be seen as the move of the day. First, because he’s gone for the season, which makes him the latest big-time loss to risk spoiling the Nationals' coming-out party this season.

The lineup’s a mess. They’ve already had to endure a brief DL stint from Ryan Zimmerman, and they’re still dealing with roughly two months without Mike Morse. Jayson Werth’s comeback from his broken wrist might happen so late in the season it runs up against the end of the minor-league season, which would eliminate his shot at a live-game rehab assignment and endanger his ability to contribute in the last month.

Add all of those losses up, and it doesn’t matter if Bryce Harper is the best thing since sliced bread: No matter how good he is, he can’t be the whole loaf. Is there any reason for hope?

Perhaps surprisingly, yes. The team will get Morse back soon, and adding him to Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche gives the Nats a reasonable heart of the order -- not great, but a group you can score runs with. Danny Espinosa will come around, and we’ll see if Harper’s protean talents adapt quickly enough to give Mike Rizzo enough cause to stick with the injury-advanced timetable for having him in the majors.

The interesting immediate question, though, is whether or not Ramos’ replacement behind the plate, Jesus Flores, could be part of an effective enough Nat attack. Before Flores tore up his shoulder and had to sit out the entirety of the 2010 season, you had reason to believe he’d be every bit the starter people have already come to expect Ramos to be. During the 2009 season, when he was 24, he’d hit .260/.313/.406 -- not shabby for a guy who had to deal with getting nabbed from the Mets straight out of A-ball in the Rule 5 draft after 2006. Despite having to make a three-level jump, he’d become an offensive asset as a catcher.

Where projections are concerned, that year away Flores spent recovering from surgery to repair a SLAP tear to the labrum in his throwing shoulder has seriously cramped the upside he might have had. When Flores came back last year, Ramos was already the organization’s new catcher of the future, and Ivan Rodriguez was marking time as the primary backup, drawing Flores just 20 starts on the season. But now he’s got a shot, and if he can recapture any semblance of his past promise, he’ll be a huge source of help for a Nats team that could use it.

The other guy now tasked with the Nats’ receiving chores is no slouch either: Sandy Leon isn’t a great prospect, but he’s a tremendous catch-and-throw receiver with a career 46 percent caught-stealing rate, and he’s a switch-hitter with good contact-hitting ability. He isn’t just the latest chip off the Wil Nieves block as possible backups go.

It might be hard to stay optimistic about the Nats’ catching situation or their offense in light of their litany of injuries. Certainly there’s an element of tragedy to see a player as promising as Ramos go down. But they’re not without weapons, and there’s a lot of baseball to come.


Christina Kahrl covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.

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