KC Royals Prospects: C.J. Eldred could follow father

(Mandatory Credit: Kelsey Kremer/The Register via USA TODAY NETWORK)
(Mandatory Credit: Kelsey Kremer/The Register via USA TODAY NETWORK) /

While Cal Eldred coaches the KC Royals’ pitchers, his son works to follow him to the majors.

C.J. Eldred isn’t that much different than the other minor league players who, deprived by a pandemic of plying their trade last summer, stayed sharp by working out indoors together at Dugout Sports in Fairfax, Iowa. One thing, however, set Eldred, a righthanded reliever in the KC Royals’ farm system, apart from his colleagues.

C.J. is a legacy, the son of former big league pitcher and current Kansas City pitching coach Cal Eldred. Cal enjoyed a successful major league career; his son works to follow him to The Show.

C.J.’s venture has been short. When no team selected him in the 2017 amateur draft after his two seasons at the University of Iowa, he accepted the Royals’ offer to sign as a free agent. Signing in August, however, didn’t leave Eldred time to launch his professional career that summer; he joined hotter prospects Kris Bubic and Jonathan Bowlan in rookie ball at Idaho Falls for the 2018 season.

That thrust Eldred into elite company—the Royals drafted Bubic and Bowlan in 2018’s first and second rounds, respectively. But Eldred outpitched them, going 6-2 in 13 starts while Bubic was 2-3 in 10 and Bowlan went 1-4 in nine.

All three moved up to A-ball at Lexington to start 2019 and eventually made it to Advanced A Wilmington. But after pitching 6.2 scoreless innings with six strikeouts and a 1-0 record, Eldred found himself back at Lexington, where he finished 0-7 with a 5.92 ERA. (He was 1-7, 5.46 overall).

Bubic now works in the Royals’ starting rotation and Bowlan is a good bet to reach Kansas City this season or next. The younger Eldred, though, has his work cut out for him if he’s to approach his father’s 14-season big league performance—the senior Eldred was a combined 86-74 with a 4.42 ERA for the Brewers, White Sox and Cardinals. He won 16 games for Milwaukee in 1993 while leading the majors in starts (36) and the American League in innings pitched (258), started an AL best 25 games the following year, and went 10-2 for the White Sox in 2000.

Cal finished his career in St. Louis, where he was a three-year teammate of KC Royals manager Mike Matheny, and has been Kansas City’s pitching coach since 2018. Whether he gets the chance to mentor his son at the major league level remains to be seen, but the baseball hiatus that started with the sudden end of last year’s spring training and concluded when summer camp began in July gave father and son the opportunity to work together.

C.J. is scheduled to resume his minor league career at Double A Northwest Arkansas this season, where he’ll join higher-profile pitching prospect Jackson Kowar under the tutelage of pitching coach and former Kansas City hurler and bullpen coach Doug Henry, who pitched four years with Cal in Milwaukee.

Reaching the majors will require better work from the younger Eldred than he turned in at Lexington two seasons ago. Missing live competition in 2020 didn’t help, but he’s only 25. There’s plenty of time left.

dark. Next. Moore will be judged on winter moves

Cal Eldred is responsible for Kansas City’s big league pitchers. But he’ll also have his eye on the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, and son C.J., this season.