The Pirates drafted Maurice Bankston in the 8th round of the 2007 draft out of Texarkana Community College. The 6′ 4″ righty signed early enough to get in some innings in the GCL. In 2008 he was a starting pitcher at State College before an injury shut him down in early August. He started the 2009 season with West Virginia and pitched better than the previous season but was sent back to State College once their season started where he started nine games before again getting hurt.
The Pirates switched Maurice to the bullpen in 2010 with improved results across the board. He showed a more consistent fastball with more velocity. Still just 23 years old to start the 2011 season he has a chance to keep building on his improvements from last year as he goes higher up in the system.
For more about Maurice, and all of the other prospects in the system, check out the Pirates Prospects 2011 Prospect Guide.
I had a chance to talk to Maurice about his improvement from last year, how his off-season went and find out what pitches he’s throwing out there.
John Dreker: Thanks for taking time to do this Maurice. First could you tell us about how your off-season went, and what it’s like to be back in camp ready for the 2011 season?
Maurice Bankston: My off-season went really good, I got some good work in and enjoyed being around my family! It’s good to be back on the field, it’s just something special about it when you first get back out there. I’m really looking forward to the 2011 season and making big strides!
John: Watching you pitch the last two years in person, I noticed a big difference in your pitching including an increased velocity. To who or what do you attribute these improvements?
Maurice: The staff and our new pitching coordinator ( Jim Benedict) have really been working on just the basic things in my delivery. I had got away from my natural arm slot so I have got back to that and my velocity and development is starting to come around better for me.
John: Could you tell us what pitches you throw and at what velocity? Also do you have any new pitches you’re working on?
Maurice: I throw a two seam fastball which is usually around 89-93 a four seam fastball which is around the same I will get it up to 94-95 sometimes. I’m throwing a slider which is usually 80-82. I just started throwing a split finger this past August which is coming around good for me.
John: Will you be relieving or starting this upcoming season and do you have a personal preference for either?
Maurice: I will be relieving this season. I was a starter the last three years but I couldn’t stay healthy for a full season. This past season was my first time ever relieving, I didn’t think I was going to like it but I love it! It keeps you in the game and you’re up every day. It also gives me a bigger adrenaline rush when you get the call to the bullpen that tells you to get ready fast! I think it fits me better.
John: The Pirates have had a strong focus on adding pitching the last couple years, does that help you to be surrounded by more prospects eventhough they’re the same position as you?
Maurice: Yes, it definitely keeps you on your toes! The Pirates have been going out and getting really good talent so it’s super competitive in camp which is always a good thing.
John: Any finals thoughts for the Pirates fans?
Maurice: A change is coming for the Pirates! They have put together a remarkable staff and young players to turn this thing around. As a minor leaguer we are getting all the resources we need to succeed in the big leagues! Thanks to all the fans for your support through the years, if it wasn’t for you guys we wouldn’t have a job!
John: Thanks again for taking the time to do this Maurice and good luck in the upcoming season!
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.