WASHINGTON -- Wilson Ramos, who had made his first All-Star team as part of a career year ahead of his impending free agency, tore the ACL in his right knee, the Nationals announced Tuesday, ending his season.
It was confirmation of the worst fears for Ramos when he left in the sixth inning of Monday's 14-4 loss to the D-backs, after landing awkwardly when he jumped in the air to grab a relay throw. Ramos, who tore the ACL and MCL in the same knee in May 2012, is scheduled to have surgery later this week.
"There's never an opportune time," manager Dusty Baker said. "This was the most inopportune time."
It ends what had been the best season of Ramos' career in a year where he had been the best offensive catcher in baseball. With the help of LASIK surgery during Spring Training, he batted .307/.354/.496 in 131 games with 22 home runs and 124 wRC+, which lead all catchers in the Majors. Each of those numbers were career highs for Ramos, who turned 29 in August, and was setting himself up nicely for free agency this winter.
His absence will leave a void for the Nationals in the middle of their order and behind the plate. Jose Lobaton will likely take over as the team's everyday catcher, although he has been dealing with a right ankle injury and had been hampered earlier in the season by a left (non-throwing) elbow injury. Those injuries had limited Lobaton's playing time lately, but he believes he is up to the challenge.
"My ankle has been better," Lobaton said. "I don't want to say great, great. But it's good to play. I haven't played back-to-back or three or four in a row since, I don't know, early in the season. But I'm ready. I'm always ready. Whatever happens, I'll be there."
The Nationals also have Pedro Severino -- their 14th-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com -- who will serve as the backup catcher and added catcher Spencer Kieboom to the active roster prior to Tuesday's game against the D-backs to provide some catching depth.
While the Nationals rave about Lobaton's defensive value, he is unlikely to replicate the level of production Ramos brought to the Nationals' offense. Lobaton is hitting .226/.321/.366 in just 36 games this season, and owns a career .631 OPS. Baker said he has considered how to replace Ramos, who normally hit sixth, in the middle of the order and even joked about staying up all night making 15 different lineups to try and decide.
It's made even more difficult as the Nationals are also playing without Bryce Harper (thumb) and Daniel Murphy (strained buttocks), although they are both expected to be ready for the postseason. But even as Washington's offense battled inconsistency this season, as some of its best hitters have struggled, Ramos had been one of its most consistent players.
"I told him 'Hey man, you and Daniel Murphy -- particularly you two guys -- carried us to this point. Now it's up to some of the other guys to take us to the next level and then the next level after that'," Baker said.