Outside the weather is frightful, but in just nine days, pitchers and catchers will descend on sunny Surprise, Arizona to mark the beginning of spring training. The Royals will return most of their championship-winning ballclub, but will also add a few new faces this year to help them defend their title. In addition to the players on their 40-man roster, the Royals have invited 18 players to camp as non-roster invitees. Some of these players are young prospects hoping to get a glimpse of a Major League camp, others are long-time vets signed on minor league deals hoping to break north with the club. Let's take a closer look at the non-roster invitees.
RHP Christian Binford - #72
Binford was the Royals Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2014 and was named to the Futures Game, but he took a huge step back in 2015. He posted a 5.86 ERA in six starts for Omaha before being demoted to AA Northwest Arkansas, where he did not fare much better with a 5.03 ERA. Binford has never been a hard-thrower, relying on command and grit to get hitters out. He is almost certainly not going to make the club, but the Royals coaching staff may want to get a closer look at what they have in Binford.
IF Orlando Calixte - #61
Calixte was once a well-regarded prospect given a $1 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic, but his slumping bat has taken him off prospect status. He made a brief Major League cameo last year, but was largely disappointing with a line of .229/.287/.337 for Omaha last season. Calixte will probably have to improve the bat to even be considered as a Major League utility infielder someday.
IF Dusty Coleman - #43
Coleman also made his Major League debut last year and quickly became infamous for his baserunning gaffe. Coleman has been a long-time minor leaguer with some decent numbers, but will likely spend most of the season in Omaha serving as depth in case the Royals have an infield emergency.
IF Cody Decker - #46
Decker was signed as a minor league free agent this winter after playing in the Padres organization and making his Major League debut last year. Decker is primarily a first baseman, although he has some experience at third base and the outfield as well. He's a right-handed bat with power, so he could be a decent bench bat in a pinch, but most likely he will spend the year hitting homers for Omaha. He also may be the most interesting man in the world.
3B Hunter Dozier - #60
Dozier was a first-round pick in 2013, but has been largely a disappointment since, hitting just .213/.281/.349 for AA Northwest Arkansas last year. His invitation is likely just to give him a taste of the big leagues and some extra motivation to jumpstart his sinking career.
LHP Jonathan Dziedzic - #73
Dziedzic was named "Pitcher of the Year" for the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals, with a 3.12 ERA in 26 games. The former 13th round pick has put up good numbers at every level but isn't considered a top prospect. Dziedzic is not particularly young, but he could be a long shot candidate for a left-handed relief role.
C Zane Evans - #78
Evans is a former fourth-round pick out of Georgia Tech who put up a great season in his first professional season for Idaho Falls in 2013, but has struggled since. He is only in camp to give the team extra catchers for all the pitchers in camp and will be sent to minor league camp before very long.
C Cam Gallagher - #70
Gallagher is another high round draft pick who has struggled with the bat since joining the Royals in 2011. Gallagher hit .245/.323/.364 in his second season in Wilmington, and is only in camp to catch the Royals pitchers.
RHP Dillon Gee - #53
Gee has the best chance of breaking north with the Royals as he has six years of Major League experience with the Mets, winning 40 games. Gee was a 1.9 fWAR pitcher as recently as 2013, but has seen his strikeout rate decline in each of the last four seasons, and was unceremoniously demoted to the minor leagues last year. Gee has a clause in his contract that he must be added to the 40-man roster by March 2 or he can opt-out of his deal and become a free agent. The Royals are likely to add him at that point, and he could make the active roster as a long-reliever ready to fill in as a starter if need be.
LHP David Huff - #59
Huff has hung around the big leagues for parts of seven seasons with the Indians, Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers. He threw just six innings for Los Angeles last year and has a career ERA of 5.08, although he has a 3.46 ERA in 96 career relief innings. He has a reverse split in his career, so he's not likely to serve as a situational lefty. He could be a long reliever stashed in Omaha ready to come up if the Royals need some arms.
LHP John Lannan - #37
Lannan is also a Major League veteran of eight seasons, mostly with the Washington Nationals. He won ten games in 2011, but has struggled to stay on a Major League roster since then, spending all of last year with AAA Alburquerque. He posted a 5.39 ERA for the Rockies' top affiliate, and has generally posted very low strikeout rates in his professional career with a fastball that sits in the upper 80s.
OF Whit Merrifield - #65
Merrifield is listed as an outfielder, but he has played all over the field, including 57 games at second base last year for AAA Omaha. Merrifield is a long-time Royals farmhand since being drafted in 2010, but posted a disappointing season in Omaha last year, hitting .265/.317/.364. He is not likely to make the club, but his versatility can help the Royals get starters out of ballgames in the late innings of their exhibition matches.
RHP Peter Moylan
Moylan has a 2.83 ERA in nine big league seasons, but has had his career derailed by numerous injuries. The Australia-native got a late start to his Major League career, but posted a 1.80 ERA in 90 innings in his first full season with the Braves in 2007. The sidearmer induces a lot of ground balls, but has endured two Tommy John surgeries. He could be this year's Ryan Madson, although the likelihood he remains healthy all year is not good.
C Parker Morin - #71
Morin hit well in a limited role for AA Northwest Arkansas last season with a line of .309/.347/.489, but has never been a well-regarded prospect. The Royals may take a look at him, but he is really in camp to give the club extra catchers.
RHP Aroni Nina - #79
Nina's invitation is a bit of a head-scratcher. He'll be 26 in April, and has never put up very good numbers in the minor leagues. He had a 5.15 ERA with nearly a walk per inning for Northwest Arkansas last season, so perhaps this is just a chance for management to take one last look at Nina before they flush him from the system.
RHP Brooks Pounder - #75
The delightfully-named Pounder spent last year recovering from a lat injury, a year after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He put up a decent 2.92 ERA in eight starts for AA Northwest Arkansas, but the clock is ticking on him. He won't make the big league roster, but if he can prove his health this year, he could find himself in Kansas City eventually.
LHP Sam Selman - #68
Selman has an electric arm that once seemed like it could take him to prospect status. Unfortunately, Selman had trouble throwing strikes, even after moving to the bullpen full-time last season. He had a 5.27 ERA with 69 strikeouts and 42 walks in 56 1/3 innings for AA Northwest Arkansas. If he ever harnesses his command, he could be a lefty-reliever, but he won't make the team out of camp.
OF Travis Snider
Snider was once one of the top prospects in all of baseball with the Blue Jays, but since then has settled into a role as a reserve outfielder at the big league level. He has some power and is a serviceable defender, but doesn't hit for much average. He is still on the right-side of 30 and does not have a big split against lefties, so he could be a serviceable fifth outfielder.
RHP Chien-Ming Wang - #67
Wang won 19 games and finished second in Cy Young balloting in 2006, but he has not pitched in the big leagues in each of the last two seasons. The Taiwanese-born began last year with the Braves' top affiliate, but was let go in June, making a few starts in the independent Atlantic League before finishing up in the Mariners organization. He is a groundball artist, but has had trouble getting hitters out for many years now, and is not likely to make the big league team.