It isn't often in these baseball scouting days that a big time prospect can stay "hidden" from the baseball mainstream, especially if he only plays baseball.
And technically, Marcel Champagnie hasn't been hidden at all. He and his summer team, the Canadian Thunderbirds "have played in tournaments all around the Eastern United States; Tennessee, West Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia....." according to Champagnie. He says he's even talked to a couple of scouts and filled out a couple of information cards over the past few years. "But nothing ever came of it," he adds.
After the Perfect Game Spring Top Prospect Showcase in Cedar Rapids, Iowa April 30 - May 1, Champagnie should become very well known to the professional baseball community.
Champagnie, a 5-11, 180 lb shortstop, is from Bolton, Canada. He describes Bolton as "a small town, really more just a village, about 45 minutes north of Toronto." He is 19 years old and is a 13th year high school student in the Canadian school system. He was eligible for the 2004 June Draft but went unselected. Champagnie says that a minor shoulder injury kept him at DH for most of last season, which may have impacted the scouts ability to evaluate him.
Another factor might be the difficulty that Major League organizations have under new immigration laws in getting in season visas for Canadian players. One pro scout at the Spring Top Prospect Showcase said "We were told at the start of the year at our organizational meetings not to even pay attention to Canadian players because of the visa situation unless they were special prospects."
Under any definition, Champagnie should qualify as a "special prospect."
The Spring Top Prospect Showcase, which is designed for players from areas that do not play spring high school baseball, such as Iowa and parts of Wisconsin and Canada, was Champagnie's first Perfect Game event. He almost didn't attend but ended up catching a ride with teammate Ivan Rusova, a well known pitching prospect with a low 90's fastball.
Once Champagnie stepped on the field, it was obvious to the Perfect Game scouting staff that he was special. He ran the 60 in 6.59, then sparkled in infield drills by showing incredibly quick hands and big league actions at shortstop. Champagnie threw in the mid 80s across the infield, very good but not great, but his release was so short and quick and flexible that there was no question he had much more arm that he wasn't showing, which became evident during the showcase games.
There was no let up during batting practice, either. Champagnie showed very good bat quickness, an advanced ability to center the ball and power to the gaps. His bat isn't as polished as his fielding skills but the basics are there. It's an effortless smooth swing.
The defensive highlight of the six showcase games was watching Champagnie charge a slow rolling ground ball and gun a runner out at first base. "Charge" really isn't the right way to describe it. Champagnie "exploded" to the ball like an NFL cornerback but maintained perfect balance the entire time and made a hard, accurate throw.
Says Perfect Game Director Jerry Ford, "Champagnie may not get drafted in the same spot he deserves because he doesn't have a history with the scouts, but there really isn't any difference in tools and actions between him and players like Matt Bush and Chris Nelson (the 2 top high school shortstops in the 2004 draft). Both those guys have very strong arms, but neither have Marcel's quick hands and feet. Scouts talk all the time about how they never see true shortstop actions, but this kid has them. He's the real deal!" It's not odd that the best shortstop actions of all high school kids comes from a country other than the USA. It is sort of unusual when that country is Canada.
Champagnie plans on playing in the Wisconsin Spring League the weekend of May 7-8 if possible, then attending the Perfect Game Pre-Draft Showcase in Cedar Rapids May 17. There are sure to be workouts with pro teams on his schedule before June 7 (the start of the draft) as well. Incredibly, the Spring Top Prospect Showcase was the first time he's played in a game this year.
Champagnie plans to attend a small school in Illinois, Kaskaskie College, but is keeping his mind open to professional baseball. "I am interested in playing professional baseball. Definitely."
Surprisingly, Champagnie doesn't list the Toronto Blue Jays as his favorite team, naming the Atlanta Braves instead ("it probably has something to do with always playing for the Bolton Braves as a kid"). He does mention former Blue Jays shortstop Tony Fernandez as his favorite Big League player, though.
People need to see Champagnie. He stands out like a sore thumb!