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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 58: James Beard

A first full pro year in 2021 gave reason for hope regarding this speedster.

The White Sox need the rest of James Beard’s game to catch up with his blazing speed.
Tiffany Wintz/South Side Sox

James Beard

Center Fielder
170 pounds
Age: 21
2020 SSHP Top Prospect Ranking: 30
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 29
SSS rank among all center fielders in the system: 3

James Beard dominated as an outfielder for Loyd Star High School in Brookhaven, Miss. in 2019. That year in 27 games, he slashed an impressive .429/.626/1.000 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.

Beard’s future commitment was to Meridian Community College, so without the prospects of big-time university exposure to come, when the White Sox selected him in the fourth round, he jumped when offered 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 in his 2019 pro debut, Beard struggled acclimating to the speed of the game. In 31 games totaling 127 at-bats, he hit just .213/.270/.307 with four doubles, two triples, one homer, 12 RBIs, nine stolen bases, eight walks (5.8%), 54 strikeouts (39.1%) and 61 wRC+. Beard played to his speed by hitting the ball on the ground (1.65 GO/FB), but he had difficulty hitting curveballs. MLB Pipeline graded his running at 80, fielding at 55, and hitting, power and arm at 45. But unfortunately, he missed a year of development time due to the pandemic in 2020.

Although his numbers weren’t as he had hoped in 2021 for Kannapolis, Beard did show slight improvement against stiffer competition than he faced in 2019. Despite two stints on the injured list, Beard played in 73 games and slashed .192/.308/.286 for the Cannon Ballers with five doubles, one triple, five homers, 14 RBIs, nine stolen bases, 37 walks (13.6%), 107 strikeouts (39.2%) and a wRC+ of 72. While his strikeouts were still high, the K-rate remained stable while his walk rate more than doubled. As Beard continues to see more pitches, his rudimentary pitch-recognition skills will continue to improve. He did play against competition more than a year older this year, so a return to Kannapolis to begin the 2022 season could help get Beard’s offensive numbers cooking before an eventual promotion to Winston-Salem.

2022 South Side Sox Top 100 White Sox Prospects

58. James Beard, CF
59. Xavier Fernández, C
60. Wilber Sánchez, SS
61. Kohl Simas, RHRP
62. Johan Dominguez, RHSP
63. Jagger Rusconi, 2B
64. Ronaldo Guzman, LHSP
65. Laz Rivera, 3B
66. Adam Hackenberg, C
67. Will Kincanon, RHRP
68. Lane Ramsey, RHRP
69. Tommy Sommer, LHSP
70. Randel Mondesi, RF
71. Shawn Goosenberg, 2B
72. Zack Muckenhirn, LHRP
73. Cameron Butler, CF
74. Godwin Bennett, RF
75. Logan Glass, CF
76. Dario Borrero, 1B
77. Craig Dedelow, RF
78. Carlos Hinestroza, RHRP
79. Gunnar Troutwine, C
80. Kade Mechals, RHSP
81: Caberea Weaver, CF
82. Layant Tapia, SS
83. Homer Cruz, RHRP
84. Kaleb Roper, RHSP
85. Jerry Burke, RHSP
86. Emerson Talavera, RHRP
87. Isaiah Carranza, RHSP
88. Davis Martin, RHSP
89. Tyler Osik, 1B
90. Samil Polanco, 3B
91. Manuel Veloz, RHRP
92. Pauly Milto, RHRP
93. Fraser Ellard, LHRP
94. Colby Smelley, C
95. Manuel Guariman, C
96. Everhett Hazelwood, RHRP
97. Garrett Schoenle, LHRP
98. Kyle Kubat, LHRP
99. Anderson Comas, RF
100. Jake Elliott, RHRP