The NHL had a novel idea this season: It broke up its All-Star Game into semifinals, with the individual stars from each division playing short exhibitions against each other in a tournament format. They played a 20-minute semifinal -- giving fans an actual All-Star bracket -- and then a championship between the winners. A clever idea, to be sure, and one that not only made the All-Star format itself more exciting, but also allowed more star players to be seen by their fans. (It also ended up leading to the John Scott story.)

I'm not sure baseball should do this -- it already has the best All-Star Game and doesn't need to radically reinvent it, though getting rid of the "Now It Counts" business is long overdue -- but it is an enticing thought experiment. Imagine if the All-Stars from each division played, say, a series of three-inning games in a double-elimination format that ended up determining the best division in baseball over a three-day stretch. It's probably too much, but it's fun to think about: Now that the divisions are more geographically aligned, there's as much division loyalty, pride and solidarity as there is with leagues, maybe more.

It'll never happen -- and again, it probably shouldn't happen -- but I'm gonna take part in the thought experiment anyway. Let's come up with a preseason All-Star team for each of the six divisions and imagine who would win such a tournament. Rather than go through matchup-by-matchup, we'll just rank them.

Here's how the teams might look. I'll be cheating a little bit by just allowing for three outfield spots rather than LF/CF/RF, but hey: This is an All-Star Game.


C: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
2B: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
SS: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
3B: Todd Frazier, Chicago White Sox
OF: Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers
OF: Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians
OF: Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals
DH: Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins

Bench: J.D. Martinez, Detroit Tigers
Bench: Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Bench: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
Bench: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

SP: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
SP: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
SP: Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers
SP: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
SP: Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

Closer: Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals
RP: Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals
RP: Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers
RP: Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Hey, the Royals are the defending champs! Say that over and over and it still sounds new, every time. The rotation is top heavy, and while the lineup has a lot of power and versatility -- there's an amazing defensive lineup there if you move everybody in the right places -- there's also some serious injury risks. The strength of this division is its depth and chemistry … not necessarily its stars.


C: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
2B: Joe Panik, San Francisco Giants
SS: Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
3B: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
OF: A.J. Pollack, Arizona Diamondbacks
OF: Andre Ethier,, Los Angeles Dodgers
OF: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
DH: Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers

Bench: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
Bench: Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
Bench: David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks
Bench: Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants

SP: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
SP: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
SP: Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants
SP: Zach Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks
SP: James Shields, San Diego Padres

Closer: Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
RP: Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants
RP: Brad Zielgler, Arizona Diamondbacks
RP: Jake McGee, Colorado Rockies

Would have liked to get Brandon Belt on there somewhere, and this list may look crazy without Yasiel Puig on it by season's end, but the main takeaway here: The Dodgers are deep. (There were three or four other players I could have fit on that bench too.) The problem with the NL West is that they have a ton of very good players but not a lot of great ones. That rotation is terrifying, though. Also, I put in a Padre just to be nice.


C: Stephen Vogt, Oakland A's
1B: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2B: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
SS: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
3B: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
OF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
OF: George Springer, Houston Astros
OF: Shin Soo-Choo, Texas Rangers
DH: Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

Bench: Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
Bench: Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers
Bench: Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
Bench: Carlos Gomez, Houston Astros

SP: Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
SP: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
SP: Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
SP: Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers
SP: Sonny Gray, Oakland A's

Closer: Ken Giles, Houston Astros
RP: Sean Doolittle, Oakland A's
RP: Shawn Tolleson, Texas Rangers
RP: Joaquin Benoit, Seattle Mariners

Like the division itself, solid top to bottom without being overly spectacular, other than Trout, of course. There's some real possibility for explosions into superstardom here, particularly from Correa and Odor. The bullpen strikes me as a little flimsy, though. But Cano coming off the bench? Yikes.


C: Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays
1B: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
2B: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays
3B: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
OF: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
OF: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
OF: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
DH: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

Bench: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
Bench: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
Bench: Hanley Ramirez, Boston Red Sox
Bench: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

SP: David Price, Boston Red Sox
SP: Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
SP: Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays
SP: Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees
SP: Michael Pineda, New York Yankees

Closer: Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
RP: Andrew Miller, New York Yankees
RP: Dellin Betances, New York Yankees
RP: Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

It broke my heart not to get A-Rod on this team. Obviously, this division is far more about the bats than the arms, at least in the rotation: This lineup would knock that pitching staff around. Though with that bullpen -- which couldn't even find a place for Zach Britton or Darren O'Day -- who needs starters, really? Also, that bench is ridiculous. Still, though: The rotation does cost them.


C: Travis d'Arnaud, New York Mets
1B: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
2B: Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins
SS: Erick Aybar, Atlanta Braves
3B: David Wright, New York Mets
OF: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
OF: Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
OF: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
DH: Curtis Granderson, New York Mets

Bench: Neil Walker, New York Mets
Bench: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
Bench: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
Bench: Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins

SP: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
SP: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
SP: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
SP: Matt Harvey, New York Mets
SP: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

Closer: Jeurys Familia, New York Mets
RP: Jonathan Papelbon, Washington Nationals
RP: Carter Capps, Miami Marlins
RP: A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins

I'm not sure how I ended up with two Braves in my starting lineup, especially considering they might be the worst team in baseball. The strengths here are obviously the rotation -- you could replace one of those Mets pitchers with Stephen Strasburg if you wanted to -- and hoo boy that outfield. The infield is a little thin, though, and so is the bullpen.


C: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
1B: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
2B: Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs
SS: Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals
3B: Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
OF: Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs
OF: Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs
OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
DH: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

Bench: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
Bench: Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates
Bench: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Bench: Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals

SP: Jake Arietta, Chicago Cubs
SP: Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs
SP: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
SP: Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals
SP: Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer: Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals
RP: Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates
RP: Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs
RP: Will Smith, Milwaukee Brewers

The toughest call here is third base: Cubs fans would certainly want Kris Bryant there, and they have a strong case. Carpenter still hit more homers, struck out less and walked more than Bryant did last year, and the players are roughly equal on defense. Bryant is about to take this spot over, but Carpenter hangs on for one more year. (Addison Russell is probably about to take over for Jhonny Peralta in the same way.) The "weakness" here, such as it is, is the rotation: There's only one real NL Cy Young contender here, unless you want to count Cole. By the way, poor Milwaukee: They only have Braun on this team, and even with that, he's just barely on there. But yes: This division had the three of the best teams in baseball last year, and it might be just as good this year. They're the pick.


Email me at; follow me @williamfleitch; or just shout out your window real loud, I'll hear you. Point is, let's talk.