Investors are always hunting for the next big stock -- the dream stock whose price increases several times over when the market finally discovers it. It's easy to look back and discover the 10 best stocks of the past decade. But I'm more interested in the tools that can help me evaluate tomorrow's greatest companies.

Motley Fool CAPS offers a variety of resources to aid Fools in finding tomorrow's leaders. Our 135,000-member community is full of investors helping each other beat the market.

We'll enlist CAPS to screen for small-cap companies, then get the story behind some of its more highly rated stocks. CAPS' nifty screener will help us find stocks with:

  • A market cap between $100 million and $1 billion.
  • A three-year revenue growth rate of at least 20%.
  • A price-to-earnings ratio of less than 25.

Then we'll tap the collective intelligence of our CAPS members to see whether these companies present real opportunities -- or whether the numbers fail to tell the true story.

Opinions with the numbers
Below is a sample of stocks our screen returned. You can run this screen yourself -- remember, though, that your results may differ from ours as the market changes.

Company

Revenue Growth Rate, Past 3 Years

Market Cap
(in millions)

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

McMoRan Exploration (NYSE:MMR)

82.1%

$529

*****

Excel Maritime Carriers (NYSE:EXM)

76.2%

$651

*****

Energy Conversion Devices (NASDAQ:ENER)

49.3%

$689

****

Data and star rankings from CAPS.

McMoRan Exploration
Although oil and gas company McMoRan swung to a loss in the second quarter due to lower production and sales, investors are encouraged by signs that output could be picking up in coming quarters. The company sees big potential for gas reserves at its Blueberry Hill project as it recently announced positive drilling results, and its Flatrock field property will be coming back online in the third quarter after being on hold for expansion and maintenance. Like Stone Energy (NYSE:SGY) and ATP Oil & Gas, McMoRan recently completed a huge equity offering, raising about $170 million to strengthen the balance sheet and provide the flexibility to pursue opportunities. Overall, 96% of the 395 CAPS members rating McMoRan see the stock outperforming the broader market.

Excel Maritime Carriers
An increase in iron ore imports from China has provided a boost for dry bulk shippers like Excel Maritime and Navios Maritime lately as shipping rates have strengthened. Steel production has been flourishing in the country thanks in part to its $586 billion stimulus package, and it's been importing at a rapid pace, giving many CAPS members reason to be bullish on Excel. Also, compared to other shippers like Diana Shipping (NYSE:DSX), which has a high percentage of contracts already covered, Excel has a higher exposure to the spot market, allowing it to benefit from higher rates. In CAPS, 96% of the 1,871 members rating Excel Maritime Carriers expect it to beat the S&P 500.

Energy Conversion Devices
Even with a rough quarter from Energy Conversion Devices still in recent memory, some CAPS members are looking for good things to come from the thin film solar maker. It's recently extended a supply agreement with EnergyPeak and announced it will acquire rooftop solar company Solar Integrated Technologies. The move could help position it for an expected upturn in the U.S. helped by the Obama administration's stimulus program, a market other solar companies like SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWRA) and Yingli Green Energy (NYSE:YGE) believe is beginning to heat up. Today, 93% of the 1,165 CAPS members rating Energy Conversion Devices expect it to outperform the market.

Let 135,000 members be the jury
The collective wisdom of a huge pool of investors can help give context to a page of numbers from a stock screen -- but individual investors are still the best judges. Fools should always perform their own due diligence.

Run your favorite factors through the Motley Fool CAPS screener. It's totally free, and we think you'll like the results.

The Motley Fool Stock Advisor service looks for companies with strong management poised to beat the market over the long haul. To see all the stocks that have helped Tom and David Gardner beat the market by 43 points on average, take a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Dave Mock dreams of stocks and sugarplum fairies, but not together. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. The Fool's disclosure policy screens the good, the bad, and the ugly.