Like the awkward age between youth and adult, mid-cap stocks are caught between the excitement of their small-cap brethren and the potential they represent, and large caps with their time-tested support and security.

Yet there are still lots of mid-cap stocks that can give investors plenty growth along with the relative safety of market acceptance. iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT), Upwork (NASDAQ:UPWK), and Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD) are three such stocks that can give investors the best of both worlds.

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A beaten-down stock with big upside potential

John Bromels (iRobot): The stock market recently battered shares of robotic vacuum maker iRobot to the point that it almost fell out of mid-cap range and into small-cap territory. The reason for the stock's 30% haircut was a worse-than-expected Q1 2019. However, much of the news from the company wasn't all that bad.

In Q1, revenue grew by 9% year over year to $237.7 million, but the company's operating expenses grew by almost as much: 7%. However, there's a very good reason for iRobot's increased expenses. The company is developing a robotic lawn mower called the Terra t7 and another new as-yet-unnamed device for release later this year. These will join the company's new high-end vacuum, the Roomba s9+, and its new robotic mop, the Braava jet m6, both of which were released in May.

With smart-home systems becoming more and more widespread, the demand for smart-home-compatible devices like iRobot's latest models should increase exponentially. While iRobot has a dominant share of the robotic vacuum market, it -- and robotic vacuums in general -- controls less than 25% of the high-end vacuum market. Put together, this adds up to a lot of opportunity for iRobot, regardless of whether a single quarter measures up to Wall Street's expectations.

With the stock now trading at a 30% discount to its recent 2019 highs, now is a fantastic time to consider picking up some shares. 

A second chance to buy a market leader in a growing industry

Jamal Carnette, CFA (Upwork): After exploding 40% on its IPO day, shares of the freelancer-employment platform now trade near their $15 IPO price, giving investors another bite at the apple. Upwork's sell-off was primarily on account of the company's first-quarter earnings: Despite beating on both the top and bottom lines, the company's forward guidance fell slightly short of Wall Street's expectations.

Despite the temporary setback, Upwork's long-term drivers remain in place. While concerns that America is becoming a gig-only economy (contractors, temps, etc.) appear to be overstated as only 10% depend on gigs as their primary income, a study from Cornell University and Aspen Institute found that approximately 30% of our workforce participates in a gig-employment arrangement. The remainder do so in addition to their primary jobs, or to use millennial parlance, as a "side hustle."

Whether it's supporting workers who depend on gigs as their primary job or those side hustling for extra income, Upwork is well-situated to take advantage of this growing trend. As the largest freelancing website, Upwork's network effects will keep both employers and job-hunters on its platform. Long-term investors should embrace the opportunity to profit from this big trend in employment.

Betting on a gaming rebound

Rich Duprey (Boyd Gaming): Premier regional gaming operator Boyd Gaming has seen its stock wobble as concerns about the strength of the gambling market have risen. Although its own earnings met expectations in April, the results of peer Penn National Gaming the following month got investors unsettled, but Boyd seems ready to prosper.

Although it operates nine casinos in Las Vegas, its off-strip locations catering to locals (it also has three facilities in downtown Las Vegas) are benefiting from much stronger support. It also has casinos in nine other states, giving it broad geographic diversity that's been bolstered by its growth-by-acquisition strategy; only one of its properties didn't see growth in the quarter.

Boyd has also had one of the biggest sportsbook operations in Nevada, and through its partnership with FanDuel, one of the biggest sportsbooks in New Jersey, which just surpassed Nevada in May as the biggest sports betting arena in the country, it is seeking to replicate that success as nearby Pennsylvania builds out its sports gambling business.

Shares of Boyd are down 21% over the past 12 months (but they're up 30% in 2019), which means its enterprise value is trading at just 10 times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, more than Penn, which goes for around 8.8 times EBITDA, but with arguably better growth prospects.

With more opportunities open to it, facilities spread out geographically that should protect its downside, and access to the better-situated locals market in Las Vegas, Boyd Gaming is a mid-cap casino stock you may just want to bet on.