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Closer Chapman headlines group of newcomers for Yanks

Castro, Hicks, Yates also among fresh faces in New York
MLB.com @BryanHoch

The countdown to Feb. 18, the official report date of Yankees pitchers and catchers, is underway. Activity has already started at the team complex in Tampa, Fla., and anticipation is kicking into high gear for the upcoming season.

In the second installment of our Spring Training preview package, "The New Guys," MLB.com will take a quick glance at some of the players who will be showing up to try on their pinstripes for the first time.

The countdown to Feb. 18, the official report date of Yankees pitchers and catchers, is underway. Activity has already started at the team complex in Tampa, Fla., and anticipation is kicking into high gear for the upcoming season.

In the second installment of our Spring Training preview package, "The New Guys," MLB.com will take a quick glance at some of the players who will be showing up to try on their pinstripes for the first time.

LHP Aroldis Chapman: Acquired from the Reds for four players on Dec. 28, the hard-throwing Chapman has already been anointed as the Yankees' closer. His arrival stocks the bullpen with all three relievers who struck out 100 or more batters last year, joining Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, and catcher Brian McCann said that he is eager to see what it's like to catch a 103 mph fastball. Chapman has been a National League All-Star in each of the past four seasons, and he posted 33 saves with a 1.63 ERA in 2015. General manager Brian Cashman acknowledged that Cincinnati's asking price dropped in the wake of domestic abuse allegations against Chapman, which prompted the Dodgers to back out of a rumored trade during the Winter Meetings.

Video: Girardi names Chapman as the Yankees' closer for 2016

Spring Training preview Part I: Yanks counting on return to form for several

IF Starlin Castro: A late-season move to second base helped Castro's production with the Cubs, as he batted .353/.374/.594 with six home runs in his final 44 games of 2015. The Yankees are counting on seeing more of that level of production, acquiring him on Dec. 8 for right-hander Adam Warren and infielder Brendan Ryan. Cashman said that the Yanks were drawn to Castro's youth (he turns 26 in March), athleticism and proven track record against left-handed pitching, an area where the Yankees were vulnerable late last year. In addition to fine-tuning his second-base defense, the Yanks plan to audition Castro as a backup for shortstop Didi Gregorius as well as third baseman Chase Headley.

Video: Outlook: Castro could benefit from change of scenery

OF Aaron Hicks: A former first-round Draft pick, Hicks was acquired from the Twins on Nov. 11 for John Ryan Murphy. The 26-year-old switch-hitter compiled a .256/.323/.398 slash line in 97 games for Minnesota, making 87 starts in center field and four starts in each outfield corner. The Yankees believe that Hicks profiles as a big league regular, but as the roster currently stands, he will back up at all three positions. He could be a frequent late-inning replacement for Carlos Beltran in right field, and he also posted an .870 OPS vs. lefties last year, making him a solid choice to fill Chris Young's old role.

Video: Hicks looks forward to being an asset for the Yankees

RHP Kirby Yates: In a less-celebrated transaction, the Yankees purchased the 28-year-old Yates from the Indians in early January. He had a 5.27 ERA over 57 appearances with the Rays over the past two seasons, striking out 10.1 batters per nine innings over his time in the Majors, and he could grab one of the Yanks' three bullpen openings. Yates was bit by the long ball last season, serving up 10 homers in just 20 1/3 innings.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Yankees, Starlin Castro, Aroldis Chapman, Aaron Hicks, Kirby Yates