One of the largest bonuses issued went to Cuban outfielder Jorge Ona, a powerful young man, who looks like he could play linebacker for the Chargers. The Padres paid $7 million for the rights to add the talented outfielder to the organization. Ona is listed at 6’1 and 200 lbs, although judging by the size of his arms and chest, he may be closer to 220 lbs.
Ona, 19, projects to play one of the corner outfield positions and played mostly left field during the instructional league. While he went hitless in the Future’s Game, the thickly-built outfielder launched several balls into the second deck during batting practice.
The young outfielder is said to have advanced feel for hitting with a powerful swing and an above-average arm. He hit .319 playing in an 18-and-under national league in Cuba in 2014 and has had some success in international play as well. The teenager has not played in a professional league stateside just yet but seems like a good bet to start next season in Fort Wayne or Lake Elsinore.
Ona spoke with MadFriars (through an interpreter) prior to his participation in the Padres Future’s Game in October.
MadFriars: You were rumored to sign with the Padres for awhile. How would you describe the process of signing the contract?
Jorge Ona: It was a difficult process. There was a lot of things that went into it. There were some difficulties and whatnot but overall I am happy to be here - very happy to sign. It’s a great organization and they have treated me well so far.
What has been your overall impression of the instructional league? Is there anything specific you have been working on?
Ona: First of all, again, I am happy to be here.
The first thing I have been working on is my speed -- I am just trying to get faster. The second thing is my mechanics when I am hitting. Also just working on my timing defensively. I am trying to get better every day.
This will be the first time Padres fans will get a chance to see you. Is it like a normal game for you or do you feel any differently?
Ona: It will be a beautiful experience for me, just being able to play at this ballpark (Petco Park) and to play in front of these fans. Once I get on the field, it will just be another game for me. It’s just baseball at the end of the day.
Instructional league is more about building skills bad preparation but with your first chance to play in the organization, do you find yourself getting more hyped up than you usually would?
Ona: For me, it’s the same. The work that I put in is the same, regardless of the type of game it is. When I am out in the field, I am going to work hard, regardless of the situation.
What is your biggest focus for next season and beyond?
Ona: More than anything, I just want to have a good season and be successful. I am going to work hard and be as good as I can.
Have you given any thought to what level you will be starting at in 2017?
Ona: Not really. I will leave those things up to the decision-makers. For me, I will play wherever those guys think is the best fit for me and I will go out there and continue to work.
You mentioned your swing mechanics earlier. Is there anything that you have tried to refine during the instructional league?
Ona: The biggest thing has been working the inside fastballs. I’ve been working on getting around on them. I want to make sure that when I am in the box, I can get around them properly.