When it comes to investing in the stock market, it pays to be skeptical. Not only should you not believe everything the analysts tell you, but you also often have to discount what the companies are telling you, too.

Going against the crowd can pay off handsomely. Some of the market's legendary investors have been contrarians: Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett, John Neff, and Marty Whitman. Like baseball's greatest place hitter, "Wee Willie" Keeler, contrarians "hit 'em where they ain't."

When the crowd abhors a stock, a contrarian wants to look more closely at it. When the masses crowd into one, the skeptical thinker believes it's time to move on.

A new breed of contrarian
Today, I'm looking at a new breed of contrarian: the Motley Fool CAPS "skeptic." Skeptics don't think like most investors. They're willing to see the downside potential of a stock along with its upside. CAPS skeptics have rated more stocks to underperform the market than outperform it. They find more downside potential than upside, but being a top-rated CAPS player means they're right far more often than not. When they mark a stock to outperform, perhaps we ought to take notice.

Here are some recent picks from five Foolish CAPS skeptics:


CAPS Rating


Player Rating

Citadel Broadcasting (NYSE:CDL)




WellCare Health Plans (NYSE:WCG)




Onyx Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ONXX)








Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX)




The stocks above are not automatic buys, any more than you'd blindly short a list of their worst stocks. This list of favorites requires a little more thinking and drilling down into the financial statements -- but it's definitely a place to start.

We care about WellCare
It would be an understatement to say that shares of managed-care provider WellCare have been volatile lately. Raids by the FBI, unspecified reasons for the investigation, clues about possible overpayments to the company -- The Tampa Tribune reports that agents confiscated a letter describing how to "get around Medicaid requirements" -- have caused the stock to plummet in recent weeks. But it has also clawed its way back up; it appears the investigations haven't significantly hurt the company.

There have been accusations of fraud, overpayments, and mismanagement in the Medicaid and Medicare programs. In the summer, Humana (NYSE:HUM), UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH), WellCare, and four others agreed to stop selling a certain type of plan because of charges of fraud.

Motley Fool CAPS investors have offered their own prognosis of WellCare's health. All-Stars like ddberg, with a 99.29 player rating, feel that even with its damaged reputation, there's still hope for the company.

Steady-grower that was cut down from $120 a share to roughly $22 at the end of October (has since gained back $13) after federal and state agencies raided the company as part of an ongoing investigation into fraudulent charges made to clients (i.e., the government) over the past 5+ years. The various media reports suggest that wrong-doing was blatant, but the actual damage was relatively minor. Chances are good that even if the investigation is resolved quickly, a lot of damage has been done to the company's reputation. But this was an awfully strong company prior to the scandal, and a haircut of 70% (net to date) seems extreme unless the investigation reveals much worse improprieties than what's currently known. Not necessarily a bet I'd make with my own money, but seems like a reasonable bet in CAPS.

chuckpin is another All-Star who sees the company as damaged at the moment, with its ultimate viability still intact.

Once they get through lawsuits, this stock will rise once more - tons of cash and they should keep a lot of it, no matter what the settlement. Also, profitable on Medicaid program - hope that isn't smoke and mirrors but betting it isn't.

WellCare says it still doesn't know the reason for the raids, but if it's true that the alleged fraud was as rampant as reports say, there could be many more opportunities for this stock to fall -- and rise! -- until the matter is settled.

Seeing past the obvious
Contrarians try to see past the headlines. They know that just beyond the storm clouds lies a shimmering morning. Conversely, the sun can't shine forever, though the crowds may think the green grass and blue skies go on and on. In the meantime, drop by CAPS and tell us which stocks are your favorite contrarian picks.

iRobot is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Start your 30-day free trial of the newsletter service here. UnitedHealth is recommended in both Inside Value and Stock Advisor.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.