It pays to be skeptical when you invest. In addition to doubting what analysts tell you, you often have to discount what companies tell you, too. On Wall Street, going against the grain can reap huge rewards. Like baseball's greatest place hitter, Wee Willie Keeler, great contrarian investors such as Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett, and John Neff "hit 'em where they ain't."

Today a new breed of contrarian investor can be found at Motley Fool CAPS. These savvy Fools are willing to see both the upside and the downside of a stock. Their often negative opinions peg them as skeptics, but their top CAPS ratings mean they're right far more often than not. When they find a stock they believe will outperform, we should take notice.

Here are some recent picks from our list of Foolish CAPS skeptics:

Company

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Skeptic

Player Rating

Dawson Geophysical (Nasdaq: DWSN)

*****

TDRH

100.00

Office Depot (NYSE: ODP)

***

chk999

99.99

Big Lots (NYSE: BIG)

*

luvb2b

99.99

Blackboard (Nasdaq: BBBB)

****

TMFBent

99.99

Taseko Mines (AMEX: TGB)

*****

DownWithInfidels

99.98

Just as the skeptics' choices of worst stocks would not be stocks to short, this list of the skeptics' favorites is not a list of automatic buys. But it does offer an excellent starting place for your own research.

There's gold in them thar hills!
At around $910 an ounce, the price of gold remains off the highs it reached when it seemed that $1,000 was just a matter of time. But the slight pullback in price doesn't mean the days of cheap gold are around the corner. Expensive gold and expensive oil are a tag-team sign that the markets think recessionary times are all around us.

Gold has been the place to be as the markets have stalled and fears about credit, liquidity, housing, and mortgages have weighed heavily. Since the panic struck in earnest this past summer, gold stocks have shined brighter than the metal they represent. Taseko Mines benefited in step with the others until early November, when major gold miners such as Kinross Gold (NYSE: KGC) staged a late-year rally. Taseko, on the other hand, fell more than 40% over the following three months.

Now could be the time for lower-tier mining companies like Taseko to shine again. Since that low point last week, the gold and copper mining company has rebounded more than 18%. With earnings due out tomorrow after the market closes, Taseko may be poised to benefit from the rebounding prices enjoyed by the metals it mines. Looks like some skeptical investors have set aside their skepticism and are ready to back a dark horse.

Getting dirty fingernails
Top-rated CAPS All-Star texn2, with a 94.98 player rating, is one investor who got down-and-dirty with Taseko and discovered last fall that Taseko's copper-molybdenum reserves are one favorable facet in this multifaceted miner that so far has been overlooked by Wall Street:

The increase in TGB Copper-Molybdenum mining reserves is a real bonus amidst rising prices. Gold has bottomed and will continue its seasonal rise into a strong January. High oil prices and uncertainty will further strengthen gold prices. ... TGB is a premier small cap mining company. ... Once Yamana Gold [NYSE: AUY] finishes its purchase[s] ... the spotlight will be on who is next. [Taseko Mines] may be small potatoes now but it is a clear long term winner as Wall Street starts to find it.

That's also the thinking behind fellow All-Star Sinchiruna, who recognized early this year that it will be gold's responsibility to hold up the miner if copper prices go soft:

They have several massive resources in British Columbia, including the Gibraltar mine which is a HUGE copper deposit. While copper prices could conceivably go soft for the 1st half of 2008 as global demand might be seen to be in decline with a global recession, I predict that copper will rebound heartily for the second half of 2008 as the industrial demand in China, India, and elsewhere will remain strong. Meanwhile, [Taseko Mines'] considerable gold reserves will continue to rake in the dough. :) [It] operates in a very politically stable area (all in Canada), and for the juniors this is a great plus for reducing risk.

Seeing past the obvious
Skeptics know that beyond the storm clouds lies a shimmering morning. Conversely, the sun can't shine forever, whatever the crowds may think. What's your forecast? Drop by CAPS and tell us which stocks are your favorite contrarian picks. 

Blackboard and Dawson Geophysical were selected by Motley Fool Hidden Gems. Don't be skeptical about the 30-day free trial offer available for any of the Fool's investment newsletters. 

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