Everyone loves a great comeback story. And in the stock market, few things are more enjoyable than owning a stock on the cusp of a massive turnaround. After all, many fortunes are made by investors who succeed in buying great businesses:

1. during times of maximum pessimism,

2. while they're being ignored and forgotten, or

3. when they're being beat down to bargain-basement levels.

Meet the turnaround tycoons
Those investors are able to do so because they see what other investors don't. More importantly, they're willing to bet big on the stocks they're certain will experience a reversal of fortune. The names behind this strategy include Buffett, Templeton, Price, and many more.

We probably can't help you with your contrarian spirit, but here are five possible turnaround ideas from our Motley Fool CAPS community. These are stocks that, despite being down 20% or more over the past year, have received a four- or five-star rating from our pool of individual and professional investors. Over the last year, CAPS' top-rated stocks, on average, have topped the market.

So, without further ado:


One-Year Return


Current CAPS rating



Wireless services


TETRA Technologies (NYSE:TTI)


Oil and gas equipment


American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO)


Apparel stores


Trinity Industries (NYSE:TRN)


Railroad products


Hercules Offshore (NASDAQ:HERO)


Oil and gas drilling


Just a word of caution. These stocks have been beaten down for very specific reasons. So, don't view them as formal picks but rather as suggestions you might want to investigate further. Due diligence is always required -- especially when you're playing with tricky turnarounds.    

Trinity train wreck?
Ever since Warren Buffett decided to jump on Burlington Northern Santa Fe (NYSE:BNI) and Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC), railroad stocks have drawn plenty of attention in CAPS. For example, Trinity Industries, the nation's largest railcar maker, has maintained a five-star rating for more than six months straight. And though it's not an official Buffett pick, Trinity has plenty of contrarian characteristics that the Oracle generally likes to see.

Shares of Trinity are down roughly 35% over the last half-year because of weak North American railcar demand and worries about the economy. Our community, however, sees the drop as an opportunity to buy some quality shares on the cheap. Several CAPS Fools cite Trinity's market leadership, sizable backlog of orders, and steady dividends as reasons why investors should remain bullish.

Couple recent insider buying with the stock's paltry PEG of 0.69, and Trinity seems like a pretty cheap bet on demand picking up over the long run.   

CAPS player northcutt0 says:

This is a broken stock, but from the looks of it not a broken company. ... There are a lot of other stocks and companies to get excited about, I mean how boring are (Trinity's) railcars, barges, structural wind towers, and highway guard rails? If "buzz companies" start to underperform, then we might see a rotation into a more sane company like TRN which makes infrastructure that makes other industries work.

Heroic comeback?
Hercules Offshore is another highly-rated, down-trending stock in CAPS. The provider of offshore drilling equipment (jack-ups, barges, lift boats, etc.) has lost 30% over the past six months, reflecting the challenging Gulf of Mexico drilling environment in which it operates. Still, our community thinks the company is all set to bounce back. 

Players are primarily attracted to Hercules Offshore's history of profitability. Before its recent acquisition of TODCO, Hercules Offshore had increased operating margins about 15% from 2004 to 2006. With many competing rigs having already left the Gulf, the company stands to benefit once again when the tide starts to turn.

Like Trinity, Hercules has an attractive PEG: 0.25. And with recent insider activity of its own -- possibly confirming just how cheap that is -- the company seems like an attractive offer at today's prices.

CAPS player oceanesg says:

Natural gas is underpriced right now based on its energy content. It may stay soft for a while because of the benign weather in the Gulf. But the long-term trend is upward (substitution effect vis-a-vis oil). It will correct to the upside. When it does, people may notice that HERO is incredibly profitable with a great growth rate.

Hero may take some pain in the short term, but this is an opportunity to load up. Every point to the downside is a gift.

Now, it's your turn(around)
The great thing about turnarounds is that they offer an exceptional way to generate excess returns over the market. The catch, of course, is that they require an excess amount of time and effort to figure out. But, with the help of more than 77,000 fellow Fools in our community, you'll have a head start on spotting some of the more probable plays. So, click here to get started, absolutely free.

More tasty, terrific, and (hopefully) triumphant turnaround treats await.

The Motley Fool owns stock in American Eagle Outfitters, which is also a Stock Advisor recommendation. Hercules Offshore is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick.

Fool contributor Brian Pacampara owns no position in any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy is always headed in the right direction.