The buzz has built to a point of inevitability. That's the consensus within Reds media right now.

So far as I can tell, the team has offered no insight into its plans for Elly De La Cruz, but in the last week or so, everyone close to the team has become convinced he'll be called up soon. The conversation has shifted from "will they or won't they?" to "how will they align their infield when they do?" Just observe these three separate articles from three separate writers.

How soon is "soon?" Depends who you ask. Longtime beat writer C. Trent Rosecrans, now with The Athletic, offers Friday as a logical guess. But that's all anyone can do right now: guess.

No matter. The point is that we should listen to the consensus on this one. If his call-up is inevitable, then De La Cruz is clearly the top prospect to stash in Fantasy Baseball. He's arguably the top prospect in baseball, after all, capable of doing things that no other hitter at any level can do.

Five on the verge

(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)

Elly De La Cruz, SS, Reds

2022 minors: .304 BA (471 AB), 28 HR, 47 SB, .945 OPS, 40 BB, 158 K
2023 minors: .303 BA (142 AB), 11 HR, 11 SB, 1.049 OPS, 23 BB, 44 K

So what has De La Cruz done to convince everyone there's nothing left for him to accomplish in the minors? Well, over his last 21 games, he's hit .341 (28 for 82) with 10 homers, nine steals and nearly as many walks (21) as strikeouts (23). His strikeout rate during that stretch is 22.1 percent. It was 33.9 percent before then. Seeing as he's 6-feet-5, strikeouts will always be a part of his game, but the way he's cut down on them over the last few weeks suggests he's not just going to take them in stride.

But here's the crazy part: he probably could. One way we've seen hitters overcome exorbitant strikeout rates in recent years is to deliver outlier exit velocities, and De La Cruz is second to none as far as that goes. I mean that literally. He's the owner of this year's hardest-hit ball in either the majors or minors. He also had a game where he hit three balls in excess of 116 mph, which is something no major-league team has done during the Statcast era. Yes, I said team, not player. And oh yeah, two of those batted balls were home runs hit from opposite sides of the plate.

His home runs look like rockets. His throws like bullets. His entire being like a blur on the base paths. He's an all-around athletic marvel. So where will he play? Maybe some shortstop, maybe some third base, with Matt McLain and Jonathan India bouncing around as needed. It doesn't matter. The momentum is building toward a De La Cruz promotion, and you want him on your roster when it happens.

Jordan Walker, OF, Cardinals

2023 majors: .274 BA (73 AB), 2 HR, 2 SB, .718 OPS, 3 BB, 20 K
2023 minors: .239 BA (113 AB), 4 HR, 4 SB, .746 OPS, 16 BB, 32 K

One of the most cited reasons for Walker's demotion to Triple-A in late April was that the Cardinals wanted him to hit the ball in the air more, which was reasonable enough. He had a 60.4 percent ground-ball rate during his time in the majors, after all. But I presumed we were getting the abridged version of the story, being spared all the intricate details the Cardinals were feeding Walker -- i.e., how to hit the ball in the air more. Judging from this video clip, apparently not:

It sure sounds like the version we got was indeed the full version. The Cardinals simply told him to hit the ball in the air more, like it's as simple as flipping a light switch. "Yeah, that 96 mph fastball is pretty good, but why don't you try throwing it 101?" Anyway, his story seems to back up the numbers. After looking lost at the plate for the first few weeks, he's suddenly batting .333 (14 for 42) with three homers over his past 11 games. And hey, the ground-ball rate is down anyway, so hopefully the Cardinals are thinking of adding him back to their injury-depleted outfield.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 1B, Reds

2022 minors: .304 BA (484 AB), 32 HR, 114 RBI, .955 OPS, 40 BB, 137 K
2023 minors: .352 BA (142 AB), 14 HR, 36 RBI, 1.132 OPS, 10 BB, 39 K

If Elly De La Cruz indeed gets the call in the coming days, Encarnacion-Stand can't be too far behind, can he? Of course, just a few weeks ago, it seemed pretty obvious he'd be up before De La Cruz, and that still hasn't happened. Nonetheless, he continues to demonstrate the same transcendent power that made him the talk of spring training. Here's a look at his latest home run Wednesday:

Impressive stuff. Perhaps just as impressive is that he has 7 walks in his last five games after having just three in his first 28. Is that what the Reds were waiting to see? Will they even have room for Encarnacion-Strand if De La Cruz makes it up first? And what about Joey Votto? Clearly, I have more questions than answers here, but I value hitting power enough to keep the faith on Encarnacion-Strand.

Ronny Mauricio, SS, Mets

2022 minors: .259 BA (509 AB), 26 HR, 20 SB, .767 OPS, 24 BB, 125 K
2023 minors: .344 BA (215 AB), 7 HR, 9 SB, .948 OPS, 11 BB, 35 K

Baseball America had Mauricio with only a 40-grade hit tool at the start of the season, but he's clearly left that rating in the dust, his batting average hovering around .350 as he's cut his strikeout rate down to 15.2 percent (it was 23.1 percent last year). The 22-year-old is of course blocked at shortstop by Francisco Lindor, so it's telling that he's played second base almost exclusively since about late April. In fact, a report from the New York Post this weekend suggested that the Mets may be preparing to install him there, moving Jeff McNeil to left field full time.

Mauricio will be an interesting case when he does arrive because his swing-at-everything approach (he's had less than a 5 percent walk rate each of the last two years) would seem to undermine his potential for batting average, particularly against big-league pitchers who can better take advantage of his aggression. Indeed, controlling the strike zone is part of what he's said to be working on in the minors, but the Mets' need for productivity figures to shortchange that process.

Colton Cowser, OF, Orioles

2022 minors: .278 BA (510 AB), 19 HR, 18 SB, .874 OPS, 94 BB, 174 K
2023 minors: .331 BA (139 AB), 7 HR, 5 SB, 1.023 OPS, 35 BB, 40 K

It's true that Cowser hasn't played a minor-league game since May 16 because of a strained quadriceps, but Orioles GM Mike Elias has said he's days rather than weeks away from returning. Meanwhile, Cedric Mullins is weeks rather than days away from returning from a groin strain. The Orioles have for now signed Aaron Hicks to take his spot, but if they're hoping to get anywhere close to Mullins-level production, they'll need to take a bigger swing than that. So even though Cowser isn't technically healthy yet, should we stash him away in anticipation of the Orioles moving quickly to promote him?

"We need to get him out and healthy. We need to make sure he's back to in the flow of gameplay at Triple-A," Elias said. "Certainly, he was building a case towards promotion consideration prior to his injury and prior to Cedric's injury."

That's not a no! Truthfully, Cowser might be an even better hitter than Mullins -- and with better on-base skills to boot. He may not be as prolific of a base-stealer, but he's also not a zero as far as that goes.

Five on the periphery

(Here are some other prospects doing something of note.)

Oswald Peraza, SS, Yankees

2023 majors: .188 BA (32 AB), 1 2B, 2 SB, 3 BB, 6 K
2023 minors: .347 BA (95 AB), 9 HR, 6 SB, 1.061 OPS, 4 BB, 16 K

Peraza is no stranger to those who play Fantasy Baseball, making his debut late last year and getting a stint in the majors already this year, too. And that's kind of why I've excluded him from my Five on the Verge even as he's homered nine times in 13 games since being sent back down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He's old news. He underwhelmed in previous chances, and there's no recapturing the hype of that initial call-up.

Now, I'm of the belief that what he's done in the majors so far has little bearing on what he'll ultimately become and would consider him a sneaky pickup whenever he returns, even if there's no accompanying hype. But it doesn't appear there's room for him now. In fact, there's about to be even less room with Josh Donaldson set to return from the IL this weekend.

Colt Keith, 3B, Tigers

2022 minors: .301 BA (193 AB), 9 HR, .914 OPS, 22 BB, 42 K
2023 minors: .331 BA (175 AB), 9 HR, .970 OPS, 18 BB, 45 K

Keith has been on the fringes of top-100 lists for a couple years now and may finally be breaking through at Double-A Erie, where he's batting .331 overall and .490 (25 for 51) with four homers in his past 12 games. His plate discipline is a bit suspect, but he's expected to grow into more power. A possible move to second base in the future would put even less pressure on his bat, but either way, he projects for a full-time role in the majors.

Yanquiel Fernandez, OF, Rockies

2022 minors: .284 BA (475 AB), 21 HR, .848 OPS, 39 BB, 114 K
2023 minors: .325 BA (197 AB), 12 HR, .955 OPS, 13 BB, 41 K

I've been putting off writing about Fernandez for a couple weeks because his walk rate is so bad, but the 20-year-old Cuban defector just continues to rake at High-A. He's now batting .438 (39 for 89) with nine homers over his past 22 games, delivering premium exit velocities from the left side of the plate. We'll get a better idea what kind of prospect he is once he moves up to Double-A, where the pitching is far better, by and large, and his aggressive approach may prove to be more of a hindrance. He makes contact at a nice rate, though, for someone with his kind of power.

Jonny DeLuca, OF, Dodgers

2022 minors: .260 BA (381 AB), 25 HR, 17 SB, .888 OPS, 45 BB, 73 K
2023 minors: .284 BA (183 AB), 13 HR, 11 SB, .935 OPS, 18 BB, 38 K

First, there was Paul Lo Duca. Now, there's Jon DeLuca. Like so many of the Dodgers prospects featured in this space already this season, he wasn't highly regarded on preseason rank lists, but he's already made quick work of Double-A and maintained that same level of production at Triple-A, putting him just one stop away from contributing to the big club. He's more than holding his own against righties, too, after converting from switch-hitting in college. Given the Dodgers' surplus of talent, DeLuca may ultimately settle in as a weakside platoon player, but then again, James Outman has gotten more run this year than most would have anticipated last year. DeLuca can hit for power, steal bases and play a capable center field, which at least gives him a chance to develop into something more.

Chris Newell, OF, Dodgers

2022 minors: .220 BA (41 AB), 1 HR, 3 SB, .622 OPS, 1 BB, 11 K
2023 minors: .319 BA (163 AB), 16 HR, 7 SB, 1.123 OPS, 33 BB, 54 K

Another Dodger? Another Dodger. Newell was a complete unknown coming into this year, having been drafted in the 13th round last year, but he was clearly too much for Low-A to handle, leading the California League with 14 home runs at the time of his promotion to High-A earlier this week. It's possible he was simply too advanced for that level, a 22-year-old beating up on a bunch of teenagers, but he went 3 for 5 with two home runs in his first game at High-A Tuesday. Defense is supposed to be his best attribute, so if he can maintain anywhere close to this production once he reaches the upper levels, the Dodgers will have done it again.