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2021 South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 29: James Beard

Better contact will make this speed demon shoot up the prospect charts

Sean Williams/South Side Sox

James Beard

Center Fielder
170 pounds
Age: 20
SSS rank among all center fielders in the system: 2
2021 SSS Top Prospect Vote: 26
2020 SSHP Top Prospect Ranking: 20

James Beard dominated as an outfielder for Loyd Star High School in Brookhaven, Miss. in 2019. In 27 games, he slashed an impressive .429/.626/.1000 with eight doubles, one triple, 10 homers, 30 RBIs, 46 runs, 31 walks (29.0%) and 10 strikeouts (9.3%) while being perfect in 26 stolen base attempts.

Flashing back to the East Pro Showcase before his senior year, Beard ran the 60-yard dash in a rapid 6.21 seconds. He was committed verbally to Meridian Community College, so when the Sox selected him in the fourth round of this year’s draft, he actually received an under-slot bonus of $350,000. Baseball America said of him at the time of the draft, “He has a chance to develop into an average hitter thanks to his speed and solid swing. Beard does not project as a power hitter by any stretch, but he has shown he’s can run into 10-12 home runs in pro ball. Defensively, Beard outruns his mistakes for now, but he has potential to be an above-average center fielder with more experience to improve his routes and reads.”

With the AZL Sox after signing, Beard struggled acclimating to the speed of the game. In 31 games totaling 127 at-bats, Beard slashed just .213/.270/.307 with four doubles, two triples, one homer, 12 RBIs, nine stolen bases, eight walks (5.8%) and 54 strikeouts (39.1%). He did hit the ball on the ground (1.65 GO/FB), but he had difficulty hitting curveballs. MLB Pipeline ranks Beard’s running at 80, fielding at 55, and hitting, power and arm at 45.

It may take a while for Beard to show what he can do on the diamond, as he likely didn’t face much competition in varsity ball. He’s a bit raw offensively, but he’s been compared favorably to Billy Hamilton at the same stage.

Beard may be best served to continue his development with the AZL squad in 2021 (he was about 16 months younger than league average), but he has a chance of playing in Kannapolis sometime this summer.