There are only 750 MLB roster spots in the world. Estimates show that as of last spring there were 16,160,000 baseball/softball players in the United States. Even if we split it 50/50, there would be a little more than 8 million baseball players young and old in the US. The 750 MLB players are roughly 0.0001% of what one may call the best baseball players in the world. Now, that's more anecdotal than factual, but there's little argument that the 750 MLB players currently on 25-man rosters aren't the best players in the world.
So below, we'll identify Royals players (in some cases, bonafide prospects) that are looking to join that 0.0001% in 2015. While some have better chances than others, I think it's reasonable that all the below players stand some chance to join the Royals in 2015, even if that chance is just a September call-up. Meanwhile, some of the below players we are using the word "prospect" pretty fast and loose.
Number one of this list with a bullet. The 2014 draftee already is on the 40-man roster. While many will argue that the Royals should toil with Finnegan's future by moving him to the bullpen, for 2015 that would likely be his most impact-full position.
If the Royals choose to send him to the minors to work on his secondary pitches (specifically his changeup) then AA would likely be his destination, joining a menacing Northwest Arkansas team that includes numerous other top Royals prospects.
Eibner has been invited to Spring Training the past 5 years so the Royals must like something about the 26 year old. He played most of 2014 in AAA while hitting an unimpressive 81 wRC+ in a good hitters environment. Eibner has been at least impressive statistically this spring as he has 5 hits in 9 at bats including 2 home runs. Eibner was a popular draft prospect out of Arkansas and was taken in the 2nd round by the Royals in 2011. He was a two-way player at Arkansas and perhaps if his 2014 struggles continued he could be moved to the mound.
Eibner is not on the 40-man
Orlando was decent in 2014 at AAA although he didn't hit for much power (which has never been part of his game). The production does come with a notation that Orlando was 28 years old. This spring marks Orlando's 8th spring training of his career (3 times with the White Sox) and he's played in over 1000 minor league games. Like Eibner, Orlando has had a good spring.
Neither Eibner or Orlando profile to be of any impact and would be more bench/defensive replacements.
Orlando is on the 40-man roster
Williams was one of the Royals Arizona Fall League participants and was at risk to be selected during the Rule 5 draft (he obviously wasn't taken by another club). Williams has always featured pretty good raw velo that usually sits 93 MPH and I've seen him hit 95 on an occasion early in games. Williams also throws a changeup and slider, but neither project as impactful pitches. Ali had a pretty good AFL appearance as he struck out 17 batters over 12.2 innings with 4 walks.
Command of his fastball is his main issue and it's lead to a high career walk rate or nearly 4 per 9 innings, but he's still effective at times out of the bullpen with a career 10.4 K/9.
At age 25 and with both AFL and AA experience under his belt, Williams is likely destined to begin the year in AAA.
Williams is not on the 40-man.
Unlike Williams above, Gustave was selected in the Rule 5 draft, but not by the Royals. Instead he was selected by the Red Sox who then traded him to Kansas City with the rules of the Rule 5 draft still intact if KC doesn't keep him on the 25-man roster for 2015. That's unlikely to happen given his rawness and the Royals already relatively full bullpen, but it seemingly would be worthwhile to return Gustave to Houston (on paper only) and then work out a trade for him.
Gustave is well known for his dominant fastball, hitting 100 MPH multiple times throughout games. He has a very solid build (basically is your prototypical "dream build" for a pitcher). The arm motion and mechanics are very easy and it's impressive that he can generate that much velocity with that little effort.
Jandel has done a good job the past few years of reigning in his command. He went from someone with no control, control with some command, and now is a pitcher instead of a thrower. The secondary stuff is still lacking and he's probably best off just ditching his changeup (especially if he moves to the bullpen) as his FB/SL combo is the only viable tandem.
Gustave is on the 40-man, and if the Royals keep him from the Rule 5 they must retain him on the 25-man or return him.
Zimmer is still working his way back from offseason surgery on his shoulder (debridement) and isn't set to start pitching competitively until late-April/Early-May. He did throw a bullpen session recently.
We're all aware of Zimmer's profile. Easy delivery and velocity. Fastball, curveball, slider, changeup repertoire that probably grades in that order. He missed basically all of 2014 with an injury and had another setback in October during AFL play.
Zimmer still needs some seasoning in the minors (the goal for 2014 was to spend time at AA/AAA before missing the season) and is likely a later-year callup, possibly even September. The Royals still insist that he is an option for 2015 for them and teams at time will skip AAA for a prospect.
Zimmer is not on the 40-man.
Like Zimmer, Manaea is most likely (if he were to appear) a late-season callup, likely September if it were to happen. He still needs refinement in his command (a byproduct of his delivery), but the arsenal can be 60's across the board during outings but is mostly a 60-65/50 FB/SL with a 45-50 changeup that can become too firm at times.
Manaea is not on the 40-man
Cuthbert is currently in camp with the Royals in Arizona and will likely join Orlando, Eibner, and others who get the move down to AAA later this March.
For me, the bat doesn't profile as anything more than a bench or second division player. If he somehow is able to play second base then that bodes well for his future, but this spring he's played only first and third. If he's a first baseman then he'll be uninspiring there, but there's some hope at 3B if somehow he can tap into his power more often and be competent defensively there.
Cuthbert has had an alright spring so far hitting .273/.308/.364 as of March 11th but he's basically been a singles train.
Cuhtbert is on the 40-man
Christian was the Royals Minor League Pitcher of the Year and had a very successful 2014. He started the year in the Wilmington (A+) rotation and made it all the way to the Omaha bullpen (AAA) after the Royals had thoughts of calling him up in that capacity in September (they never did).
Binford is likely to return to AA (but could also see AAA) where he'll continue to log innings and face batters. Stuff wise there isn't a lot of room left for Binford and his velocity/repertoire isn't overwhelming or underwhelming (it's just whelming?)
They almost called him up last year and if a starter or two goes down this year, Binford is likely on the short list of names to replace him, if only briefly.
Binford is not on the 40-man
Flynn came over in the Aaron Crow trade and I recently I spoke about him a few articles back when waxing about Tim Collins and Brandon Finnegan.
There isn't particularly a lot to like about him, profile as a backend starter, but he could be okay as a left-handed reliever and is on the short list to replace the now Tommy John'd Tim Collins.
Flyin is on the 40-man
Selman finally moved to the bullpen in 2014 after years of poor starts that were mired by inconsistencies. The shorter stints will allow his fastball/slider to play better and lower the impact of his poor command. Selman was good in relief this fall in the AFL as he had 12 strikeouts to 3 walks in 13 innings.
He's likely to start in Omaha out of the bullpen, but being a young lefty with strikeout numbers bodes well for his potential 2015 role with the MLB club.
Selman is not on the 40-man
Fletcher is an aggressive hitter with good contact but can get caught chasing too often and doesn't have the power to make up for it. Defensively he's adequate but doesn't feature much speed for a good-average/low-power hitter so he's more of a 5th outfielder type that could get some appearances in September, but not someone you want on your 25-man. Fletcher has spent the past 3 spring trainings with the Royals
Fletcher is not on the 40-man
Adams made the briefest of appearances for the Royals this year and was overwhelmed, striking out in 66% of his appearances. Fletcher has fringe-average power and good speed where the full upside on him would be a 4th outfielder.
Adams best bet at playing regular games at the majors would be an injury to Dyson/Rios/Gordon/Cain where defensively he can play all 3 outfield positions in some capacity.
Adams is on the 40-man
Merrifield is in the same boat as some of the above names. Nothing spectacular in the way of tools, but he's hit well at every level he's seen in the minors really. He features an aggressive but contact orientated approach that leads to low-walks/strikeouts and focuses on putting the ball in play with his line drive swing.
Merrifield features a somewhat inspiring 2015 PECOTA projection for a profile of his as the 50% outcome is a 0.5 WARP, 60% outcome at a 0.9 WARP, and a 70% outcome as 1.3. It's an okay-average/low-OBP profile fringe power, but defensively he's played SS/2B/LF/RF/CF throughout the years and could find some time in a utility role.
Merrifield is not on the 40-man
Lamb has seen some innings in Spring Training this year as he continues his seemingly never ending journey back to pre-Tommy John velocity/stuff. He's seen some rejuvenation in his velocity and was pegged at 93 MPH this March, much better than his 86-88 MPH he was throwing in 13/14.
The velocity isn't holding as he continues past one or two innings though so a bullpen role is best for him. If he doesn't make the Royals 25-man squad out of camp (not very likely he will) then he'll return to Omaha to continue pitching out of the rotation in hopes of retaining his pre-TJ outlook (...not very likely he will)
Lamb is on the 40-man
Dwyer pitched 3 innings for the Royals last year and could see his name called if one of the current bullpen options goes down. He'll return to the Omaha bullpen where his command and low-90's fastball is still fringy as always.
Dwyer is on the 40-man
Calixte is currently in camp with the Royals and has seen some limited reserve playing time so far. He's still far too aggressive with his low-contact hit tool, but when he does connect there's above average power in the bat from the shortstop position. You'll dream of Calixte's upside of finally making contact because defensively he's good at SS where even an okay bat would play well.
The upside here is Ian Desmond, but it's the least likely scenario at this point and instead looks more like a defensively competent Tyler Greene.
Calixte is on the 40-man
Fuentes was traded for Kyle Bartsch to the Padres late last year and fits the classic defensive first outfielder role where he's above average at all three positions, but the bat is lacking. There's little to no power and it specifically isn't a part of his game as he looks to hit more line drives than loft. Alongside Adams, Fuentes could be the backup 4th/5th outfielder.
Fuentes is on the 40-man