North Carolina A&T pitcher hopes HBCU Swingman Classic elevates his draft stock
Xavier Meachem looks to become 21st MLB pick in Aggies’ history
Editor’s note: Meachem became the first HBCU player selected in the 2023 MLB draft when the Miami Marlins picked him in the 10th round (293rd overall) on Monday.
North Carolina A&T pitching coach Jamie Serber wasn’t surprised when more than a dozen scouts lined up at World War Memorial Stadium near campus to look at right-handed pitcher Xavier “Meach” Meachem.
At just 20 years old, Meachem is one of the youngest eligible collegiate baseball junior prospects. He has intrigued scouts with a slider that touches 97 mph, and during his bullpen session at the MLB draft combine his slider had a spin rate of 2,888 revolutions per minute ranking third overall among prospects.
“Twenty scouts aren’t coming to watch you pitch when you don’t have something that you can offer. There’s been times where our stadium has been full of scouts, and they were there to see one person – Xavier,” Serber said. “When his slider is working, it doesn’t matter. There’s been times where you can call that pitch, and you know it’s gonna be an instant strikeout. I think you can get major league hitters out with a slider when it’s all together.”
In his final showcase before the 2023 MLB draft from Sunday through Tuesday, Meachem will be one of 50 Division I athletes from historically Black colleges and universities playing in the inaugural HBCU Swingman Classic on Friday in Seattle during MLB All-Star Week.
“I’ve been doing a lot of pre-draft workouts and went to the combine. … I love the grind,” Meachem told Andscape. “I’m gonna be a part of something that has to do with Ken Griffey Jr. and MLB in Seattle.
“I’m really excited. [My] parents are really excited [and my] family [is] really excited for me. There’s a lot of good HBCU players out there and baseball players so just for me, representing them, it’s a blessing.”
Since the Aggies wrapped up their baseball season in late May, Meachem has been working to increase his MLB draft stock.
In June, the 5-foot-11 pitcher participated in the MLB combine, where 300 MLB prospects are invited to prove why they deserve to be selected in the 20-round draft. Meachem also is currently one of three HBCU players representing the United States as a member of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.
Managing his health has been his top priority in the months leading up to the draft. Meachem has his own stretching and lifting routine to keep his lower body healthy and his pitches consistent. He also has focused on perfecting his slider and mastering more pitches.
“I’ve been working on [my slider] more. It was popping out my hand too much, so it was allowing hitters to see it. So I’ve been able to work on it and make it look more like a fastball, tunnel it a bit,” Meachem said.
“I’ve been working on my changeup the past year,” he added. “One of my goals was to get my changeup better, and I worked on it a lot in the offseason. It helped me a lot during the season, but I do want to start developing, like, a sinker and cutter just add to my repertoire.”
Others have noticed Meachem’s development.
“I’ve seen him put, like, a whole bunch of work in this whole year,” said Camden Jackson, Meachem’s Aggies teammate and childhood friend. “Meach really takes care of himself, his body and all that and what he eats.”
Jackson also will participate in the HBCU Swingman Classic.
“I’m looking forward to facing him. … We faced a lot in my inner squads and all the scrimmages and all that. It’s a little different. It’s just gonna be fun,” Jackson said. “Like, we’ve been talking about it since we got picked and all that once I saw that we weren’t on the same roster. … I might talk to him after the game. For now, business.”
Since his freshman season Meachem has improved each year, decreasing his ERA from 8.31 to 5.59 by the end of his junior year. He finished his junior campaign with a career-high 47 strikeouts in 48.1 innings.
“[His improvement] shows that the best baseball is in the future for Xavier. His best days are ahead of him for sure,” Serber said. “I think everybody in this game knows that. Ask anyone in our clubhouse or some of the scouts. They’re saying, ‘We’ll probably bet Xavier plays in the big leagues for five to 10 years or even more.’ How he continues to grow and develop is probably going to be the key.”
Meachem’s disposition under pressure is his most noticeable trait as a pitcher. Serber raves about Meachem’s maturity on the mound, noting he isn’t a player who barks at opponents when he strikes them out nor is he a player who complains or lacks accountability when things go awry.
“I think that’s just my personality. I just like to stay calm throughout things and majority of time I celebrate sometimes, you know, [but] baseball is a weird game,” Meachem said. “You get too up and you get knocked right back down. So just staying level is what was best for me.”
Former North Carolina A&T pitcher Evan Gates, who currently pitches in the San Francisco Giants’ minor league system, remembers working with Meachem when he was a freshman.
“When I was there and he was 18 years old, fresh out of high school, just watching him throw I knew that his arm is special,” Gates said. “I remember him being one of the quieter kids … but people flocked to him and it looks like now he’s just a natural-born leader. I’m just really proud of him.”
Meachem fondly remembers walking into coach Ben Hall’s office as a freshman and seeing the Aggies’ draft pick board, hoping that one day his picture would be on the wall.
“They had the board of how many MLB draft picks they had and Leon [Hunter] was the last one. I always just picture my name right under his, so it’s a dream come true to follow in that,” Meachem said.
Meachem aims to be the fourth pitcher from North Carolina A&T since 2017 to pursue a pro baseball careers, joining right-handed pitcher Gates, right-handed reliever Leon Hunter and former minor league pitcher Cutter Dyals.
“When we come in and we see a guy can make it, it gives all of us the ambition and possibility of making it as well. Every year, like, we need that guy to step up to be the next dude … that’s gonna carry the load,” said Gates, who is a pitcher for the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
“So, I think that’s really what the legacy is about. Cutter passed it to Leon, and then Leon passed it to me and then I kind of passed it on to Meach, so it’s a legacy thing. Every year there’s that guy that everyone’s gonna look up to that they know they’re gonna get after it.”
North Carolina A&T baseball alumni frequently visit the program, and Meachem has relied on the former Aggies aces as a sounding board throughout the draft process.
“I talked to Leon Hunter a lot and Evan Gates and just getting advice on what the minor league is like, the draft process and agents, just stuff like that and they will help me out a lot,” Meachem said. “I’ve been told to enjoy it, this process, and not stress over what’s going on, just do what I can do. … [Scouts] like my stuff. You know, they just complimented my personality, getting to know me and stuff like that.”
According to Meachem, scouts and coaches project him to be a Day 2 draft pick, falling between the third and 10th rounds. If drafted on Day 2, Meachem would become the 21st MLB pick in North Carolina A&T history and the Aggies’ highest drafted player since reliever Al Holland was selected in the fourth round of the 1975 MLB draft.
“One of my goals is to show people that they can take the HBCU route,” Meachem said. “Just getting more of us in the HBCU baseball world was one of my goals, and I just want to inspire people to go a different route, make your own path. You don’t always have to go to that big school to get noticed.”
Only three HBCU players were selected during the last two MLB drafts: Texas Southern pitcher Kamron Fields (2021 draft, 20th round); Texas Southern outfielder Johnathon Thomas (2022 draft, 19th round); and Grambling State catcher John Garcia (2022 draft, 19th round). However, Meachem is undeterred.
“I think [scouts] will start taking us more seriously. It’s a lot of talent that has been missed out in the past year,” Meachem said. “So I’m just glad that people are all noticing and giving us the opportunity to perform on a big stage.”
He pitched two innings as a closer with the Collegiate National Team, which has helped him show his pitching versatility to MLB teams.
“I showed that I can close. I can come in those high-intensity situations and get through them and I can also start to control the game,” Meachem said.
He isn’t shy about what he can bring to an MLB organization if drafted.
“They’re gonna get a hard worker. Someone who makes his teammates better, a team player. Someone who is willing to take on any role they’re given, whether that be a star reliever, closer [or] setup guy,” Meachem said. “Someone who’s going to leave it all out there every time he pitches.”