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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 76: James Beard

Severe contact issues keep this speedster falling down our list

James Beard has learned it’s harder to use his speed as a weapon without getting on base.
Tiffany Wintz/South Side Sox

James Beard

Center Fielder
170 pounds
Age: 22
2020 SSHP Top Prospect Ranking 30
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking 29
2022 SSS Top Prospect Ranking 58
2022 High Level Winston-Salem (High-A)
Age relative to high level -1.5 years
SSS rank among all center fielders in the system 6
Overall 2022 stats 86 games ⚾️ 6 HR ⚾️ 20 RBI ⚾️ .165/.298/.260 ⚾️ 28-of-37 (75.7%) SB ⚾️ 51 BB ⚾️ 138 K

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. He did play against competition more than a year older, so a return to Kannapolis to begin the 2022 season should have helped get Beard’s offensive numbers cooking before an eventual promotion to Winston-Salem.

However. They did not. Beard’s career saw new lows in 2022, as he was utterly incapable of making contact — a K-rate for a low-power speedster approaching 40%! Beard’s wheels are his game, and without an ability to at least turn whiffs into dribblers he can use to pressure the defense and beat out 20% of the time, he has almost no value.

Among the ratings below, Beard’s “contact” rating would indicate that 95% of A-ballers in 2022 made better contact than him.

Beard’s Baseball Cube player ratings
Speed 85
Durability 61
Runs 57
Power 46
XBH 33
Hitting 16
RBIs 13
Contact 5
Team Winning Percentage .354

The only reason Beard remains in our Top 100 at this point is that he was a fourth-rounder just four years ago, paid $350,000 to sidestep college. At this point, however, there are serious holes in his game that need patching. If he can get on track, later this summer Double-A Birmingham will be on his radar.

2023 South Side Sox Top 104 White Sox Prospects

76. James Beard, CF
77. Gabriel Rodríguez, RHSP
78. Ronny Hernandez, C
79. Troy Claunch, C
80. Brooks Gosswein, LHSP
81. Tim Elko, 1B
82. Yoelvín Silven, RHRP
83. Trey Jeans, LHRP
84. Jerry Burke, RHSP
85. Carlos Jiménez, 1B
86. Mason Adams, RHSP
87. Frankeli Arias, LHSP
88. Ernesto Jaquez, RHSP
89. Laz Rivera, 3B
90. Xavier Fernández, C
91. Álvaro Agüero, CF
92. Ben Norman, RF
93. Erick Bello, RHRP
94. Adisyn Coffey, RHRP
95. Arnold Prado, RF
96. Alsander Womack, 2B
97. Johan Domínguez, RHSP
98. Evan Skoug, C
99. Noah Owen, RHSP
100. Javier Mora, 2B
101. Will Kincanon, RHRP
102. Yohemy Nolasco, RHSP
103. Billy Seidl, RHRP
104. José Rodulfo, RHRP